Chapter 1: Prologue
If there was anybody else in the Time Vortex in this moment, they would have had a fairly strange view. Things like this were quite rare here.
First of all, there were two spaceships at once. That was uncommon even in times when time travelling was an ordinary thing, let alone during the last few decades, when the Time War was at its worst.
Second of all, one of the ships was obviously trying to escape from the other one, occasionally being shot at. It looked like a very unfair fight, since the chased ship was considerably smaller and did not have any weapon to fight back with.
The third thing was not exactly observable to a regular person, but it was out of the ordinary as well. It was the fact that both of the ships were actually flown by Time Lords.
The inside of the smaller ship was filled with so much noise it got incomprehensible. All sorts of detectors were making all sorts of noises, something was exploding, other things were buzzing. The only thing that its pilot could concentrate on was not crashing, which, frankly, she was terrible at.
"This is the last warning, Maiara!" could be heard from one of the speakers. "Surrender now or else-"
The man was cut off mid sentence. Well, he was not actually; it was the sound from the radio that got interrupted by an explosion, a rather big one. Her attempts on flying straight through the Vortex failed miserably and her ship tore a hole in it. Now she was falling through a terrifying void where she was sure to find certain death.
"Sir, she flew out of the Vortex," younger of the men said.
"Shall we follow her?"
"No, there's no need to," the commander shook his head. "Either her TARDIS will not survive the void, or she will end up in some completely hostile world that will take care of her for us. Our job is done here. Let's head back to Gallifrey."
Chapter 2: One
"Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit shit," Maiara cursed under her breath, trying to regain control of the flight. "Come on! You can't do this to me!"
The insides of the ship groaned in response.
"I know that it's my fault!" she snapped. "But that doesn't mean that you can't help me! I bet you don't want a corpse in here forever."
She was sure that if it could, the ship would roll its eyes. Before she could do anything else though, she was flown through the air to one of the white walls. Pain shot through her whole body.
"You better didn't do this on purpose," she mumbled and got up, crawling back to the console. She found the screen and with crossed fingers, she turned it on.
"You did not just imply that I am trash," she snarled, seeing that the place looks suspiciously like a huge dumpster. "What the hell is this place?"
A single word appeared on the screen – Sakaar.
"Christ, I thought it says Skaro for a second," she sighed. "Seriously though, what is this? Why have you brought me here?"
Another sound emerged from the depths of the ship. "Okay, fine, you didn't. How did we get here though?"
The ship did nothing this time. She rolled her eyes and watched the screen for a while to make sure she was really safe. After a while, a small vessel appeared on the horizon, nearing her. She decided to wait if they notice her.
The new ship gently sat down on the ground – "Take notes," she mused with a grin and her own ship huffed – and its pilot walked out, heading directly to her. It was a woman, not very tall, her skin was something between olive and brown, her face decorated with silver-white vertical lines. Her hair was tied in something that resembled a ponytail. She was fairly beautiful.
"Okay, I know that you're here somewhere!" she called. "I am detecting a life form somewhere in this mess. If you don't show yourself, I will have to look for you myself, and believe me, you don't want that."
"I hope you at least masked yourself reasonably," Maiara whispered to her ship. The screen showed what it looked like from the outside – all she could see was a huge pile of garbage. "You're good."
"I'm serious," the other woman insisted. "You have ten seconds."
"You can protect us, right?" Maiara questioned.
"Ten! Nine! Eight!" she started counting. "Seven! Six! Five! Four- you know what, I don't care." She bumped her fists together and something that looked like gloves made of light surrounded her hands. At the same time, her ship activated and two large cannons ejected from the sides of it.
"Oh shit, that looks bad," Maiara groaned, unsure of whether her ship could protect her from that. She activated her microphone and quickly said: "Okay okay okay, fine! Just don't shoot, alright? I'm coming out!" and with that, she ran to the door and opened it. She walked out, careful not to lose her balance. Closing the door again, she jumped off of the pile. "Happy?" she asked. "You can turn those off now."
The other woman was staring at her in disbelief. "Did you just crawl out of that broken window?"
"Obviously," she shrugged.
"How- whatever," she shook her head. "You are coming with me."
"Oh am I?" Maiara smirked. "How come?"
Her new not-so-friendly friend pointed the two cannons at her again and raised her eyebrows.
"Fair enough," Maiara mumbled. "Can I at least take my ship with me?"
"I- I guess," she shrugged. Smiling, Maiara climbed the pile of mess, grabbed the broken window and put it under her arm carefully. The stranger shook her head in disapproval and turned the guns off.
"Off we go," she grinned. "Will you tell me your name at least?"
"Scrapper 142," she replied and started walking back to her ship.
"I have a hard time believing that's your real name, but your choice," Maiara shrugged and followed her. "What is this place?"
"You ask way too many questions," Scrapper replied, clearly annoyed. She sat down in a pilot chair and closed the door behind them. "But at least you're not trying to fight me like most of them."
"Yeah, I'm not much of a fighter," Maiara admitted. "I'm Maiara by the way. Call me Mae though."
"Then what are you?" Scrapper queried as the ship took off and turned around, facing a city that Maiara didn't notice before. It was rather large, consisting of mostly fairly tall buildings, the tallest one being in the middle.
"It's... um... you could say I'm a scientist I guess," Mae struggled with her words.
"And how the hell did a scientist get to a spaceship that looks like a broken window and crash land with it?" Scrapper wondered.
"Long story," Mae almost whispered. "I messed up and had to get the hell out of my home planet."
"Sounds like you're in some deep shit," Scrapper smirked.
"Ican't deny that," Mae chuckled. As they were nearing the city, the conversationwent silent and Mae was just wondering; what the hell happens now?
Chapter 3: Two
“What have you brought me today, 142?” the man, who was introduced as the Grandmaster, asked. He looked sort of insane – long golden robes, blue line from his lips and his grey hair was styled in a way that no grey haired man ever would walk out with. He had this smirk on his face that made her feel fairly uncomfortable.
“Um, excuse me, why am I tied to a chair?” Mae questioned bitterly. “You know I wouldn’t fight you, I’m not an idiot. You’d kick my ass with your eyes closed.”
“Shush,” he said. “You will get a chance to speak.”
She rolled her eyes and groaned.
“She claims to be a scientist,” Scrapper replied at last. “But she crash landed with… what was it again?”
“A window,” Mae snarled.
“Oh, now that sounds exciting!” Grandmaster snickered. “Tell me everything. I love a good story.”
“Sir, can I just get paid and leave? I really don’t need to hear a big, tragic story of how this girl fell out of a window,” Scrapper interrupted.
“Yes, yes of course,” he nodded.
“Topaz, you know what to do, right?”
“Sure thing, boss,” the woman, whom Mae didn’t notice before, nodded. They both left, leaving Mae alone with Grandmaster. She shot him a glare.
“Oh yeah, right, hang on,” he mumbled and pressed a few buttons on his own chair, freeing her hands from the restraints. Sitting straighter and putting his hands together, he instructed her: “Tell me everything.”
“Did you just buy me?” she inquired and got up, folding her arms on her chest. “I am not a-”
“I’ll decide what you are after you tell me the story,” he interrupted her.
“But I can already tell you that you are neither a gladiator, neither what you just implied. By the way, that was very mean thing of you to say, um…”
“Mae,” she finished. “My name’s Mae.”
“Well, Mae, now it’s your turn to speak,” he urged her. “Don’t make me wait.”
She sighed in defeat. “Fine.”
She told him how she messed up an experiment terribly.
“Um, professor Maiara?” her assistant Lehla called.
“What?” she asked.
“Are you sure that-” Lehla started, but was interrupted by an explosion of one of the test tubes. Its contents splashed all over the walls and them as well.
“Oh… it’s… it’s not that bad,” Maiara said slowly. “Which one was it?”
“The... the third one,” Lehla replied. Shivers ran down Maiara’s spine.
“Okay, it’s… it’s worse than I thought,” she nodded. “But we can handle it, nobody needs to know. Let’s just clean this place up and continue as if it nothing happened, okay?”
“If you say so.”
She also told him how it turned out to be much worse than she had anticipated.
She walked into the lab the next morning, definitely not expecting it to look like the inside of a tin can that has been left out in a humid place. And for it to smell like rotten cooked broccoli.
“Oh crap,” she whispered, pulling her sweater up so it covered her mouth and nose. “Oh, this is really bad.”
Closing the door shut, she entered a safety code into the little device next to it and a large red word QUARANTINE appeared on the tiny screen. After that was done, she ran out of the lab building to find Lehla.
“Hey hey hey hey hey,” she called after her when she found her in the cafeteria with a few of her friends. “Lehla. We need to talk. Urgently.”
“What’s wrong, professor?” Lehla asked, getting up from her chair and following Maiara to one of the corridors.
“Have you seen the lab?” Maiara whispered.
“No, I was going to go there later,” Lehla shook her head. “Did something happen?”
“I need to show you, but we can’t go there,” Mae explained. “Come to my office. I have access to the security cameras in the lab.”
After a quick run through the complicated building of the Gallifrey University, they finally ended up in Maiara’s office. She turned on her computer and with a few commands, a huge holographic projection of the lab appeared around them, as if they were truly there. A horrified expression flew across Lehla’s face.
“Which sample was it again?” she asked quietly.
“Hang on…” Maiara browsed through her notes for a few seconds. “Um, R64.”
“The one that contained Racnoss venom?”
“Lehla, all of them contained Racnoss venom. That was the subject of our research,” Maiara laughed dryly.
“I-I meant Zygon venom,” she corrected herself. “The highly corroding Zygon venom mixed with the most venomous… venom… ever known?”
“That one, exactly,” Maiara nodded. “Oh shit,” she added when she came to the realisation. “Oh fuck, what have I done?”
“Wait wait wait wait,” Grandmaster interrupted her. “What exactly is a Racnoss?”
“It’s a… um… it’s an alien. Evil. Disgusting. Looks like a huge red spider,” she explained in the simplest way she could think of.
“Oh I see,” he nodded. “And a Zygon? That sounds terrible.”
“That’s an even more disgusting, more evil alien. It can shape-shift to whatever it wants, but it actually looks like a giant purple… bleh thing,” she smirked.
“Okay,” he nodded again. “Go on.”
Three weeks have passed and nobody noticed a thing. They, of course, took advantage of it, keeping on doing their research through the security cameras, noticing the way the mixture damaged the lab. Then one day, a colleague of hers came to her office.
“Hey, um, Mae? Have you been feeling… sick lately?” he asked.
“No,” she shook her head. “Should I?”
“Well, everybody has been since, like, two weeks ago.”
“And by everybody you mean…”
“Here at the university.”
“Oh. Well, not me,” she tried to shrug carelessly. “Have you maybe, I don’t know, inspected the labs? Maybe some virus escaped from the virology section. Could have happened.”
Brilliant move, Maiara, she thought. You bloody idiot. Now they’re gonna find out that your lab is in quarantine. You fucking turd.
“Mae, I am from the virology section,” he frowned. “You’re acting a bit strange. Do you know something?”
“No, just… that was my first guess,” she stuttered. “I mean, people get sick, the first thing you think of is viruses, right? Or bacteria, I don’t know.”
“You’re acting really strange now. I’m getting a feeling that you have something to do with this,” he said slowly.
“Oh come on, you know me,” she grinned. He inspected her face with a frown.
“You better be very careful, Mae,” he turned on his heel and walked away.
“So I figured that the smartest thing to do is to find the nearest ship and just get the hell out of there,” she explained. “I stole a TARDIS and ran away. Of course they found me, they’re not idiots.”
“And that is how you ended up here I suppose,” Grandmaster noted.
“Yes, exactly. They were chasing me in the Vortex and I kind of fell out of it,” she confirmed.
“Fascinating,” he mumbled. “But what am I gonna do with you? Don’t take it personally, but I don’t trust you with science.”
Fuck you, she thought.
“I could make you a gladiator, but you’re not strong enough.”
“Or you could become one of us, but that just doesn’t make sense.”
“What would you like to be?”
I’m getting out of here the second you turn away, you idiot.
“I-I don’t know,” she stuttered when she realised that he was expecting her to answer. “I mean, I don’t know this place, what can I be?”
“You could be a Scrapper,” he proposed. “If that ship of yours is still working, it could certainly make a great Scrapper ship. Does it have weapons?”
“No, there is not a single TARDIS in the universe that would have weapons,” she shook her head. “Or at least I don’t know about one.”
Wait, is he really gonna let me use my own ship?
“That can be solved. You’ll be a Scrapper,” he announced. “154.”
Chapter 4: Three
“Great,” she faked a smile. “I can’t wait to start.”
“Slow down, tiger, it’s not gonna be that easy,” Grandmaster laughed. What an idiot.
“Well, what do I need?” she asked.
“First of all, someone needs to tell you what to do,” he started. Then he turned to one of the guards: “Get 142 here.” Turning back to her, he explained: “It’s a tradition that the last one always teaches the new one.”
“But if I am 154, shouldn’t I be taught by 153?” she wondered.
“In theory, yes,” he agreed. “But the highest number we have here is 142. The others are dead.”
“Dead?” she asked, horrified. I left Gallifrey so I wouldn’t get killed and now I’m just gonna die somewhere else?
“Yes, dead. Mostly eaten,” he shrugged.
“So you’re trying to tell me that minimum of eleven people died on this job and you’re still continuing to hire new ones?”
“Of course I am, silly, how would I get new gladiators?” he giggled. “Take 142 here, for example,” he gestured to the door. “If I wouldn’t have hired her because others died on the job,” he mimicked her perfectly, “I would have never gotten so many wonderful fighters!”
“There we go again,” Topaz, who had left with 142 a while ago and now was back with her, rolled her eyes.
“You needed me?” 142 asked.
“Yes, dear,” he confirmed. “This is Scrapper 154.”
“Another one?” she sighed, annoyance clear in her voice. “And now you’re gonna say that I’m supposed to teach her, aren’t you?”
“Precisely,” he smiled. “You know me so well.”
She rolled her eyes and turned to Mae: “Come on then.”
They took off to the corridors, Mae almost immediately loosing track of where they went.
“It’s not that complicated actually,” 142 started explaining. “Don’t die. Try not to let the other one die. Simple.”
“How do I do that?” Mae asked. “No no no no no, I take that back. What exactly is the job? Do I just… walk around waiting for someone to fall from the sky?”
“Basically,” 142 nodded. “You’ll get assigned to a part of the outskirts. It’s really rare for anyone to appear inside the city. You’ll also be given a small radar thing that will start beeping when a life form appears in your region. You need to make sure it’s not the Sakaarans, they’re just… you’ll see. On that note, don’t let them get to the person you’re trying to save first. Unless they are very skilled in fighting and did not hurt themselves by falling, they probably cannot protect themselves.”
“Why did they not get to me though?” Mae wondered.
“All they saw was a window. It’s completely normal for trash to land here. In fact, most of what we get is trash.”
“Oh. That… that makes sense, yeah,” Mae stuttered. “Um, Grandmaster also said something about a weapon?”
“Sure,” 142 nodded. “I can give you one of mines and you’ll pay me for it later.”
It took her months to learn everything she needed. She was surprised to find that despite being new, her region was just as big as 142’s. She was salty about it for quite some time, never really letting it go, much to 142’s annoyance.
Speaking of 142, Mae was absolutely sure that she hated her. Whenever she asked her for anything, she always helped her with a fairly high number of eye rolls and quietly uttered sarcastic remarks.
“You’re ready,” said 142 one day.
“W-what?” she stuttered. “What do you mean, ready?”
“I have my own region, remember? I can’t help you forever,” she smirked and took a sip from her glass. “From now on, you’re on your own. Just remember everything I told you and you’ll be fine. I’ll be impressed if you won’t be dead by the end of the week though.”
“How sweet of you,” Mae rolled her eyes. “But I can ask you for help if I’m lost, right?”
“Don’t even bother,” 142 laughed. “You don’t exist to me anymore. Have a great life, 154.”
“Mae,” she growled. “I’m Mae.”
“You’ll stop thinking that when you’ll have been doing this for a while,” 142 turned around and walked away.
“That goddamn runknisse,” Mae breathed.
“I heard that!” 142 yelled from the corridor. “Don’t know what it means, but I heard it!”
Mae let out a low groan and let herself fall into her comfy chair more.
If I could at least get out of here, she thought.
Weeks ago, she tried to use her TARDIS, but the ship simply refused to move, making strange, ear piercing screeches. After an argument with it, she realised that she was stuck on Sakaar forever.
Instead of her own ship, she had to use one very similar to that of 142. It worked fine, but it took her a long time to learn to fly it.
I should try to make the most out of it. Maybe it’s not gonna be that bad.
Chapter 5: Four
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. She was using her name less and less, getting used to her new one. Even though she didn't believe it at first, her and 142 became quite good friends. 142 even taught her to enjoy the famous Competition of Champions. The relationship mostly depended on 142's (constantly changing) mood. Most of the time, she was quite alright, her snarky remarks bringing at least some laughter into her life. Well, unless they were aimed at her. But sometimes she would be truly unbearable, making rude comments about everything 154 did or said, sometimes even digging to her science career back on Gallifrey and making fun of her failure. When she started doing that, 154 tried to keep her composure at first, but after a while, she would snap back at her. Feeling guilty for yelling at her only companion, she would then retreat to her chambers, hide inside her TARDIS in case 142 came searching for her, and not talk to her at all for at least a day out of shame. Actually, she thought it was a day, but it turned out to be much more than that, like a week.
Time passed differently on Sakaar, and it was driving her insane. She asked 142 a few times about it, but she always shrugged it off, saying she was imagining things. But she just knew it was different, after all, she was a Time Lady. She could feel how it was moving differently, unnaturally. Strange thing was, nobody else did. Even though the pace of their aging remained unchanged, making it seem like they aged slower than they normally would, they didn't care. They were probably enjoying it.
When it comes to the Grandmaster, she got used to him over time. Sure, he was a huge weirdo and kind of creepy, but he did have a likeable side to him. He was always positive, which left 154 fascinated. He got a bit more annoying when 142 brought him a strange green monster, never shutting up about how amazing he is, strong and perfect. He started comparing everybody they brought to him with that thing that called itself Hulk. For some reason, he and 142 got along pretty well; they trained together a lot and even talked.
One afternoon, 154 was hanging out with the two of them. They were competing in something and she was watching them as usual. She was getting quite bored of it and starting zoning out when her radar started beeping.
"Thank God," she groaned and got up from her spot. "I gotta go, something just... you know. Have fun, you two!" she waved them goodbye and ran out to the hangar to her ship.
Moments later she was already on her way to what she liked to call the crime scene. She watched the little light blinking slowly as a group of white dots approached it. The Sakaarans. She tried flying faster; having to make sure they don't eat the poor creature. But only a few seconds later, the group started leaving them. They were not dead though...
She landed only a few meters away from where the radar said they were and ran out of her ship, searching for them. It took her only seconds to spot a tall, dark haired masculine figure lying on top of a pile of garbage, motionless. She walked up to him and smirked.
"No point in pretending to be dead, sir," she said slowly. "You may fooled them, but I know for a fact that you are very much alive. I will now escort you to the city."
He opened his eyes, but didn't really move. Only his chest started heaving, but he didn't seem to be taking in any oxygen.
"Knocked the wind out of you?" she cocked her eyebrows. The man didn't say anything. "Yeah, right. Let me help you then. I know it's uncomfortable, but it will pass in just a moment, don't worry."
She helped him sit up, careful not to hurt him in case he had anything broken. He sat on rusty pieces of spaceships, trying to catch his breath. 154 stood beside him, being nicer than 142 and letting him regain his composure.
A while later, he finally seemed to be breathing well again.
"What... what is this place?" he asked.
"It's called Sakaar, probably the second biggest dumpster in the universe," she explained bitterly. "But I'm not the right person to explain this stuff to you, so if you could please follow me, I'll take you to the city."
She offered him a hand and he hesitantly took it, letting her help him get up. He stumbled a bit, so she tightened her grip and led him to the ship.
"Who are you?" he queried when she sat him down.
"Scrapper 154," she answered and climbed into her chair.
"That's not a name," he shook his head.
"You didn't ask what my name was, you asked who I was," she smirked. "But it kind of is my name."
"Is it though?" he raised his eyebrows.
"You ask so many questions," she rolled her eyes and started the engines. "Who are you anyway?"
"Loki, of Asgard," he finally responded after what felt like two minutes at least.
"Yeah, right, and I am Poseidon of Olympus," she smirked. "Whatever. It's only fair for you to not tell me who you really are, don't worry. Besides, you can start over. Here you don't have to be who you used to be."
"Simple. You can't get away from here and the chances of someone or something from your past life getting here are reaaaaaaally low. So you can be... Loki of Asgard, if you'd like to. Well, and if the Grandmaster lets you."
"The one who built this whole thi- didn't I say I'm not the one to explain things to you?" she stopped herself. "Leave your questions for later, you'll get your answers, I promise."
He finally shut his mouth and watched as the city neared them. The sun was just setting behind them, shining a beautiful orange light on the buildings and making the whole scene look a little less garbage-like. She knew exactly what was going on in his head. He reminded her of herself when she got to Sakaar. He was smart enough not to fight her (though unlike her, he definitely could have tried) and go along with what she said instead.
A few minutes later, they landed outside the Grandmaster's palace. She jumped off of her chair and opened the door.
"Come on now," she urged him. "I don't have the whole day for you."
He hesitantly got up and walked out of the ship, her following right after him. "Don't bother trying to flee, you'd only get lost and I'd get in trouble."
He nodded in acknowledgement and waited for her to lock the ship. He kept looking around like a lost kitten.
"Aw, don't worry," she tried to cheer him up and punched his shoulder lightly as she started walking. "I'm pretty sure you'll be fine. You're the first one in years who wasn't trying to escape or beat the Scrapper up."
"Who was the last one?" he wondered.
"Me," she smirked. "Everybody else is just straight up freaking out, making a fuss and shit. Whereas you seem completely calm. A little confused, but calm."
"How long have you been here?" he asked her.
"Years. Decades. I don't even know anymore," she shrugged. "Stop asking questions, seriously. Aaaand there we go. Hey, Topaz. Topaz!" she called to the woman standing not too far away from her.
"What do you want, miss Scientist?" she rolled her eyes.
"Is Grandmaster in there? I found someone and I am sure he'll like him," 154 explained. Topaz looked over him and sneered.
"Yeah, he's in there," she replied finally. "Oh boy, I wanna see that."
She opened the door to the big room where Grandmaster spent most of his time. When they walked in, they saw him sitting on the throne, apparently taking a nap. She rolled her eyes as she came up to him and told Loki not move.
"Sir? I have someone with me that I need you to see," she poked his shoulder slightly. "Sir? Sir!"
He didn't even move a muscle.
"HEY!" she yelled. She saw Loki wince slightly, but all she cared about was if her boss woke up, and he did. He blinked a few times and looked at her, all confused. She stepped back a bit.
"Why are you disturbing my sleep, 154?" he asked dramatically.
"I'm sorry, boss, but I found someone in my region," she explained. "He calls himself Loki."
"Because it's my name," Loki mumbled, annoyance hidden in his voice. 154 had to suppress a chuckle.
"He looks like a very lovely man indeed," Grandmaster grinned. Loki raised his eyebrows.
"He might be slightly strange, ignore that," she whispered.
"Slightly?" Loki smirked.
"Maybe a bit more than that," she admitted.
"Oi!" Grandmaster scolded them. "You do not whisper in front of your Grandmaster."
"Sorry," she uttered, avoiding eye contact.
"Well, Lackey, why don't you introduce yourself?" he suggested.
"It's Loki, sir," Loki corrected him. "I am the son of Odin, and therefore-"
"Odin?" Grandmaster frowned. "Who is that? Should I care?"
"Didn't I tell you that nobody cares about the past here?" 154 hissed. "Everybody starts from the bottom. Unless Odin, who I doubt is real, is planning to come here and destroy Sakaar to get his son back, it doesn't matter."
"Very well, 154," Grandmaster nodded. "Very well indeed."
"Thanks," she breathed. "What are we- I mean, what are you going to do with him?"
"Well, that's easy," he smirked. "I'll assign him to you."
She froze. "What do you mean? You want him to be a Scrapper?"
"No, no, not at all. I want him to be your friend."
"142 told me that you are lonely and never talk to anyone."
"Alone. Not lonely. There's a difference. And it's not true that I don't talk to anyone, I talk to her! She is my friend, sort of. And the Champion too. He likes her more, but I hang out with them both. I don't need anyone, Grandmaster. I prefer to have these two people that I talk to sometimes, and then I need my solitude."
Grandmaster stared at her for a few seconds. "You need a friend. He's your new friend. He's gonna live in your chambers with you. Off you go."
"Do not argue with me, 154. He's your buddy now. Leave me alone, I want to sleep."
She bit her tongue to stop herself from saying anything else, turned on her heel, grabbed Loki by the wrist and left the throne room. Topaz was following them, giggling evilly.
"Stop it," 154 snapped at her after making sure she was not carrying Grandmaster's melt stick.
"This is amazing," Topaz insisted. "You were so sure you were about to get paid a nice sum, weren't you? Your face!"
154 rolled her eyes and kept walking.
"Paid?" Loki asked and forced her to stop. "You would have got paid for me?"
"Oh don't get all whiny, that's how this place works," she retorted. "I was sold to him by the oh-so-mighty 142. A Scrapper saves someone, they get paid by the Grandmaster. Don't give me that look, I did save you. Sooner or later, you would probably be eaten or something would fall on you. Topaz, shut up!"
She left them, still laughing.
"Come on, buddy," 154 groaned and led him to her room. "Dammit, I am so mad right now."
She finally got to the door of her room and walked in.
"Please forgive me the mess, I wasn't expecting the son of Odin to visit me," she smirked as she flicked the light switch, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
"This is where you live?" he questioned, looking around. A few food wrappers were lying on the floor next to the overflowing garbage can, some dirty dishes in the sink, the bed was unmade with some clothes scattered next to it, but apart from that, it was not bad. The bed was huge and looked quite comfortable with the thick mattress, the carpet seemed thick, the slightly yellow light making it feel somewhat cosy. The whole room was decorated in black and white and shades of grey, with little colour.
"Obviously," she shrugged. "You're probably used to something else, but you know, this is not Asgard."
"Can you not do that?" he proposed. "Didn't you just tell me a few minutes ago that the previous life I had is not important here?"
"You're right," she nodded. "I'm sorry, I tend to be slightly mean when I'm angry. I got those manners from 142."
"Who is this 142 you keep talking about?" he wondered.
"Another Scrapper, Grandmaster's favourite," she replied bitterly. "She was the one who brought me here. You might meet her later, but it's getting late and I am tired. Let me just fetch you a blanket and a pillow so you can sleep on the couch."
"The sun has barely set, you call that late?" he chuckled.
"Time passes weirdly here, so I usually go two days in a row," she explained. "Wait here. Don't you dare follow me inside, okay?"
She walked into what seemed to be a closet, but was actually her TARDIS. She left the door open, because if she had closed them, it would become a time bubble, where time would pass normally, making Loki wait hours for her to return. She ran through the corridors, dragging her hand along the cold metal of the walls, not sure where to go.
"Hey, tell me, where are the blankets and stuff?" she called.
"What?" she heard Loki ask from the outside.
"Not you," she shook her head. The insides of the ship huffed. "Thanks," she smiled and turned left. After a few more meters, she reached the small room she was looking for. She grabbed one thick, fluffy wool blanket and a matching pillow. Then she returned to where Loki was waiting and handed them to him.
"It gets really cold in the night, so you better wrap yourself in this," she told him.
"I can't sleep dressed like this though. Do you maybe happen to have something in that thing?" he asked, slightly nervous.
"Oh right, yeah, hang on," she mumbled, slightly stunned by the sudden presence of such manners, and walked into the TARDIS again. When she came out this time, she was carrying a handful of men's clothes and a towel. She put everything on the couch and walked around it. With a few pulls, she turned it into a single size bed.
"If you'll excuse me, I'll go take a shower," she said and left to the bathroom.
When she walked out fifteen minutes later, Loki was changed into his pyjamas, lying on the couch like a pharaoh.
"Do the clothes fit?" she asked when she put her own ones in the laundry basket and also the other dirty ones that were lying around on the floor.
"Yeah, they're good," he confirmed. "Thanks."
She smiled shortly and climbed onto her bed, curled under her blanket and reached to turn off the lights.
"You don't need anything else for now, right?" she questioned. She saw him shake his head, so with a click of the light switch, the room became dark.
"I hope you don't snore," she smirked as she laid her head on the pillow.
"Goodnight to you too," he replied.
Chapter 6: Five
154 had a hard time falling asleep. She was not used to having someone else in the room with her, and Loki's breathing kept interrupting her desperate attempts to sleep. And he was not even snoring, in fact, he was really quiet, barely audible, but she only knew the room when it was completely silent, so he was driving her insane. Hours were passing by nonchalantly, the morning nearing Sakaar with the pace of a sprinter. She tossed around and stared into the wall.
"My father's dead," Loki suddenly said quietly. She winced slightly, then sat up on the bed and looked at him.
"I'm sorry, what?" she whispered back, slightly sleepy and therefore confused.
"Odin. He died," he explained.
"I'm sorry," she repeated. "For how this is probably gonna sound, but is there any... particular reason you're telling me that?"
"I wasn't really telling you, I just needed to say it out loud," he replied. "It doesn't feel real."
She sighed. "Need a hug?"
"No, not really," she could see him shake his head.
"Talk about it?"
She rolled her eyes and laid back on her pillow. "Good night, Loki."
After another half an hour, she finally managed to drift off to light slumber. She could still sense the room she was in and there were not any dreams, but at least she got some rest.
The morning really did come soon. Her window curtains were shut, but a thin streak of light still managed to hit her eyes. She let out a whine and rolled over to hide her face from it. She froze for a fraction of a second when she felt something unfamiliar touch her foot. Without any further hesitation, she grabbed the small knife she kept hidden under the pillow and with a quick move, she climbed on top of the intruder, the knife pressed against his neck, her knee in his crotch to keep him pinned down.
After her eyes adjusted to the weak light, she finally saw his face.
"Loki," she groaned in annoyance. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"N-nothing," he stuttered. She pressed down with her knee. "Ow, ow, alright! Stop it!"
She smirked and got up from him, leaving the bed. "I'm pretty sure I told you you're sleeping on the couch. Why the hell are you in my bed?"
"The real question is, why do you sleep with a knife under your pillow?" he asked and sat up. She shot him a glare and pointed the knife back at his neck.
"I didn't want to upset you, I'm sorry, but the couch is really uncomfortable," he gently pushed the knife away from him, an apologetic look on his face.
"No it's not!" she fought back, slightly offended. "No one has ever complained! I slept on it too a few times, and it's fine."
"I just couldn't sleep there," he insisted. "And I figured there was enough space on the bed so I wouldn't disturb you."
She sighed. "You didn't touch me or anything, right?"
His cheeks turned slightly pink. "I would never touch a lady without her permission," he replied quietly.
"Fine then," she said after a moment of consideration. "As long as you stick with that policy, you can sleep there too. As you said, it is big enough."
"Thank you," he gave her a slight smile. "I promise I'll stick with it."
"Good," she nodded. "Now. You want breakfast?"
"That would be nice, thank you," he agreed.
"Thank you very much for that, words cannot express the gratefulness I feel towards you," 154 snarled the second she came into 142's quarters. She was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, munching on a pastry with a bottle of something beside her.
"What did I do?" she asked with her mouth full.
"You told Grandmaster that I am lonely!" 154 carried on. "You know all too well that I prefer being by myself and now he makes me live with this idiot I picked up in my region yesterday."
"What idiot?" 142 frowned and tried to look behind her to see if there was anyone else.
"I left him in one of the common rooms," 154 waved it off. "But why did you do that? I don't want to live with anyone, it's only been one night and I already hate it. I can't sleep with anyone else in the room, I need my silence!"
"Does he snore or something?" 142 cocked her eyebrows.
"No he doesn't, he's- THAT'S NOT THE POINT!" 154 yelled. "My nice little bubble of silence now has an intruder and it's your fault and yours only."
"And did it ever occur to you," 142 jumped off of the counter and began walking to her. "That I might have done it because I care? Hm? I genuinely thought that you are lonely and that's why you are always in your room. I thought you didn't like that I get along with Hulk and that you needed someone else."
154 was taken aback slightly. She definitely didn't expect that. She thought that 142 wanted to cause trouble, that she was being mischievous. Before she could say anything, 142 walked all the way to her and looked her dead in the eye.
"Come back when you'll have thought about it, will you?" she asked.
154 backed out of the room and watched as 142 closed the door.
"Dammit," she whispered. She kept staring at it for a minute, but then she returned to her own quarters. With a deep sigh, she sat on the bed and rested her head on her hands. She remained in that exact position for a few seconds, but then she let out a loud groan and threw herself down to lie on the bed. With her hands still on her face, she began uttering quiet curses in every language in the universe.
"Oh shut up, you!" she suddenly turned to her TARDIS. It huffed quietly. "What do you know about it, hm?"
She got up and walked across the room. She opened the closet door with a creak and walked in, completely ignoring the console room and the console itself, rushed past it and set off to the endless corridors.
"Normal friend would first ask if you were lonely, and then, depending on the answer, do something. But she doesn't think before doing things, you know?" she began talking to the ship. "She just does them without giving a fuck. And look where it brought me! Now I have to share my bed with a person that I haven't even known for one single day."
Another sound emerged from somewhere deep inside the ship.
"I know that people here do that all the time, but do I look like everyone else to you?" she rolled her eyes. "You know all too well that I need my solitude. I can't spend 24 hours a day with him on my tail, that's horrible! And don't you dare say that I am not with him right now. I am not, but only because I couldn't stand the idea of constantly being with him. That's just ridiculous."
She turned right and found herself in the control room again. "No, you idiot, I don't want to go here, alright? I just want to wander around for a bit."
Turning on her heel, she returned to the corridor and tried going straight this time, carrying on with the conversation with the matrix of the ship.
"Yes, I know that he doesn't have to be a stranger I have to live with, and I'm aware that I will have to get to know him a bit, but I'm not ready for that, understand? I'm used to having two people in life and then BOOM! He literally gets thrown in. It's happening too quickly. And he's weird. He claims to be Loki, the Norse god. I mean, come on. How stupid does he think I am? Besides, he has it all messed up. Loki was not Odin's son, he was his blood brother. But maybe... maybe the myths aren't completely realistic, am I right? For all I know, he could have been something like his adopted son, which is weird, because he was a giant, and the Vikings got it wrong."
She walked in silence for a while.
"What am I even talking about? Crap, I must be going crazy. Norse gods? Pffft."
She noticed she ended up in the console room again.
"Stop that!" she yelled at the console itself. "Didn't you hear me? I don't want to be here!"
She then heard a quiet cough from behind one of the pillars. She turned that way and saw Loki with an apologetic look on his face.
"I- I'm sorry, I just heard you talking and got curious," he stuttered. "I don't think you're stupid. I'm telling the truth, I swear."
When she didn't say anything, he added: "What is this place? I tried to follow you down the corridor when you appeared the first time, but I ended up here again. Is this some kind of maze?"
She continued glaring at him, seemingly trying to set him on fire with the power of her mind. He shifted uncomfortably. "First you invade my bed and now my safe space that I specifically told you not to go in yesterday?" she snarled. "You're really not making a good impression."
With that, she walked out, back into her quarters, sat down on the bed and grabbed a book from the bedside table. After a moment, she heard him come out of there as well, and saw him sit on the corner of the bed.
"I'm truly sorry, Mae, but-"
She tore her gaze from the text and frowned. "How do you know my real name?"
"Grandmaster told me," he replied. She clenched her jaw and exhaled loudly through the nose.
"You know what," she started. "Don't try to get involved with me in any way, okay? Don't talk to me, don't talk with others about me, don't go inside my ship ever again. I'll sleep on the couch if you really can't sleep on it yourself, you can take the bed," she began reading again.
"Did you say ship?" he asked, dumbfounded.
"Yes I did," she confirmed without giving him a single glance.
"How is that closet a spaceship?" he wondered.
"It just is. Deal with it," she growled, annoyed. When she heard him take a breath for another question, she looked up again. "Shut up."
He remained silent for only a brief moment. "What are you reading?"
She smirked. "You're unbelievable," she got up and left the room, heading for the gym. When she reached it, she was greeted by Hulk throwing axes at the poor mannequins in the corner.
"Hey," she mumbled, hoping he would not try to communicate with her any further. She walked over to the other side where a bunch of punching bags were hanging. She found her protective gloves and began attacking the innocent object with all her strength and fury. Her fists were landing on the leather with loud bangs, making the bag swing all over the place. Soon enough, she started mixing the punches up with her elbows, sometimes adding an occasional kick.
Only a few minutes in, she felt sweat breaking out all over her body. She ignored it and carried on until she started running out of breath. Only then did she stop to grab a towel from the bathroom and to have a small drink of water. She sat on a bench in the corner and tried to catch her breath.
"You angry," Hulk noted.
"Yes I am," nodded. "More than I have been in a long time."
"Anger good," he stated. "Hulk always angry."
"Yeah, I've noticed," she smirked.
"Why you angry?" he asked.
"Boss makes me live with this one guy, claiming that I'm lonely," she explained bitterly.
"Angry girl says you lonely."
"But I'm not! I just like to be on my own, see? I'm better off like that. Not everyone needs to surround themselves with other people."
"You lonely," he repeated.
"I am not," she said through gritted teeth. She got up, stretched her fingers and returned to the bag, throwing punches and kicks and ignoring Hulk altogether. She concentrated on her rage, her hits growing stronger and stronger. She could feel her knuckles becoming sore and she was sure that they would eventually become bloody, but she ignored the pain and kept going.
Hours flew by without her leaving the room, still punching the bag, occasionally taking a short break to wipe the sweat off of her face and neck. At some point, 142 came in there as well, greeted her with an annoyed look and began training with Hulk.
It was getting dark outside, but 154 barely noticed. She was blinded momentarily when someone turned the lights on, but she got over it quickly. However, as the adrenaline started to wear off, she began to feel very tired. It was getting harder to concentrate and her body felt heavy. After a while, she gave up. With a sigh, she took the gloves off to find bloodstains all over the back of her hands. She walked to the bathroom to wash it off. The sting of the cold water hitting the small wounds made her wince. She made sure to get rid of every last bit of dirt before pressing a clean towel on them to stop the bleeding. Then she found a small bottle of disinfection to clean it completely, biting her lip to stop herself from hissing.
"That's gonna hurt tomorrow," she heard 142 from the door. She looked up and saw her in the mirror.
"Is it really?" she rolled her eyes. "Wow. I'd never know."
142 remained in her position, resting against the doorframe, silently looking at her.
"Look, I get that you were trying to help me," said 154 slowly. "But maybe you should have asked me first. Then I would have told you that I'm fine and we'd move on."
She struggled to wrap her right hand in a bandage, not being able to even open it with the other, also injured hand. "Shit," she uttered.
142 walked over to her, took the bandage from her shaking hand and started to fix the mess she had made.
"I realised that too after you left my room," she replied. "But I really thought I was helping you. Stop moving if you don't want it to hurt, idiot!"
"Sorry," 154 mumbled. "He really pisses me off though, I think I'll just ignore him."
"Oh come on, is he really that bad?" 142 chuckled.
"I mean, he's probably not trying to be annoying, he's just stupid," 154 shrugged.
"What'd he do?" 142 questioned.
"I woke up to him in my bed after I told him to sleep on the couch," 154 began. "But we sorted that out. And this afternoon, he came into my TARDIS."
"That's the weird ship you have? The broken window?" 142 raised her eyebrows.
"It's not weird, just different than other ships," 154 frowned.
"I don't like it," 142 insisted. "Other hand."
154 switched hands and smirked. "That's not the point. Yesterday I specifically told him not to go there. And what does he do not even 24 hours later? Follows me inside. I got mad and told him not to try to get acquainted in any way, meaning no talking both to me and to the others about me, and five seconds later, he tries to start a conversation. And he's super weird."
"You shouldn't be so hard on him," 142 shook her head. "Why do you think he's weird?"
"He calls himself Loki and actually tries to make me believe that he's the son of Odin. Now come on, that is proper bullshit," 154 smirked. 142 froze for a second, a strange look on her face.
"Yeah, right, because Odin didn't have a son," she nodded then.
"What? No, because he is not real," 154 laughed. "Don't try to tell me that you know him or something."
"No, no, of course not," 142 shook her head frantically. "He's fictional. Yeah."
"You alright?" 154 frowned.
"Yeah, sure, it's just..." 142 trailed off.
"Nothing," she shook her head. "Well, there you go. All nice and tight. See ya!" she left the room quickly before 154 could ask her anything else.
"Weird," she mumbled to herself. "Everything is suddenly weirder than usual."
She checked herself for any more injuries and upon realising that there were none, she left the gym and returned to her room. She ignored Loki, who was sitting on the couch, drinking tea, and headed straight to the bathroom for a shower. She realised that it was not going to be easy to take one with the bandages on, but she could not care less. She got undressed and stepped into the cubicle, turning on the water to wash the smell of the gym off of herself. The bandages were truly getting in the way, but she managed to ignore it.
After she was finished, she changed into a clean set of clothes and came back to the room. She turned the couch into the bed, ignoring Loki's protests, and moved her pillows and blanket to it, and taking his ones to her bed. She lied down, curled under the fluffy cover and closed her eyes.
"What happened to your hands?" Loki asked. She didn't say anything. "Mae?"
She pretended to have fallen asleep and ignored him. A moment later, he got up with a sigh and walked over to the bed.
"Goodnight, Mae," he said.
Chapter 7: Six
She kept her promise for three days in total. Every morning, she would wake up, ignoring his polite "Good morning, Mae," and then leave the quarters, not caring about him at all. But soon she realised, thanks to 142's words of wisdom, that he might actually be trying to be nice to her, and not just doing what the Grandmaster told him. So on the fourth morning since the incident, she actually greeted him back.
As the morning sun hit her eyes through the small gap between the curtains, she groaned and tried to hide her face under the blanket. As she moved it, however, her feet got exposed to the cold air of the room. She let out another annoyed sound and rolled off the couch, trying not to hit the floor too hard. Once she was there, she spent some time trying to wake her brain up as well, blinking rapidly. After she felt like a fully booted computer, she got up (with another moan) and managed to drag herself to the kitchen.
"Good morning, Mae," Loki, who was resting against the counter with a cup of tea in his hands, greeted her.
"Hi," she replied, trying her best to smile at least slightly despite feeling like a corpse. She rubbed her eyes a little bit too hard, trying to get rid of all the sleep dust. She stretched her whole body and smiled as she felt her spine cracking gently. She didn't notice the confused look that was plastered on Loki's face. "You slept well?" she asked after she finally looked at him again.
"I, um, well I-" he stuttered.
"Good," she nodded absentmindedly, not really noticing his struggle. "I'm sorry, I just need something to start that brain of mine, it's not used to waking up like this."
Without any words, Loki handed her a mug that had been waiting for her on the counter.
"Oh. Thanks," she smiled. "Have you been leaving that for me every day?"
"Well yes," he confirmed. She suddenly felt bad for treating him like he was air. She always left the quarters so quickly that she never even noticed the cup that was there for her.
"Look, I'm sorry," she finally spoke up after a minute or two of awkward silence. "I was... pissed. Very pissed. And wrong. I admit that. It was a mistake to treat you like that. You were just trying to be nice. So... I'm super sorry. I have trust issues. And that is not me trying to find an excuse for mistreating you, that is me explaining myself. I'm sorry. Again. Crap, I should just shut up. Sorry."
"Does that hurt?" he asked, concerned.
"W-what, making an idiot out of myself? A little, yeah," she rambled.
"No, your hands. Do they still hurt?" he explained. "They're shaking."
"Oh. I suppose they really are," she smirked slightly and put the cup down since it was threatening to spill. "Now that you mentioned it, they really still hurt quite a bit. I thought it would be gone by now. Oh well."
"Can I take a look?" he proposed.
"I guess," she shrugged and allowed him to grab her hands and bring them closer to his face. Without a warning, he started slowly unwrapping the tight bandage. She winced at his touch, but forced her body to relax and trust him. He freed both of her hands of their cloth restraints and made a face.
"Did you change those at all during the three days?" he questioned, squishing his nose.
"...No?" she said hesitantly. "I was too busy."
"It's infected," he told her.
"What? No, it can't be. I disinfected it!" she objected. "I cleaned it with water, then applied sanitizer, then used clean bandages. There can be no infection!"
"But there is, look," he insisted. "That's why it still hurts, see? It would probably be halfway healed now, but it's infected."
"What do I do with it?" she began panicking. "There are no doctors here, we have to take care of ourselves... ourselves!"
"Don't worry, I can take care of it," he gave her a reassuring smile. "Do you trust me?"
"I'm not really sure, but what choice do I have?" she smirked nervously. "Go on."
She watched as he closed his eyes, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration. He gently ran his fingers across the wounds, sending a strange, warm sensation to them and to her whole body. She frowned, confused at his actions.
"What... what are you doing?" she asked.
"Shhh," he scolded her and continued caressing her hands. She looked at them and saw that the spots were getting considerably smaller and that the pain was fading away slowly.
After a few seconds, he stopped moving and only held onto the tips of her fingers. He opened his eyes, a strange spark to them.
"What was that?" she repeated her question.
"Magic," he told her with a wink.
"Cut the bullshit," she retorted harshly and tore her hands from his. "Just tell me. Are you a Time Lord? Can you regenerate?"
"No, I'm not a Time Lord," he shook his head. "And I swear that I'm telling you the truth."
"So... so you really are the Loki from the myths?" she frowned, stretching her fingers carefully. There was nothing wrong with them anymore.
"Indeed," he smiled. "Why so surprised? I already told you a hundred times."
As she was taking a breath to give him a sarcastic comment, the watch-like device on her wrist began beeping aggressively.
"Dammit," she whispered. "I need to go. I'm not ready! Fuck, fuck, fuck..."
"What's wrong?" Loki questioned.
"Someone just fell from the sky," she replied quickly before changing into more suitable clothes with the blink of an eye. She grabbed the small knife from under her pillow and tossed it over to Loki. "You. With me. Come on!"
They ran out of her room and headed to the hangar where she kept her small vessel. Loki was just looking for a place to sit in there when it started moving rapidly, and he fell on his butt.
"Sorry!" she yelled, racing out of the city and to the outskirts. The beeping was speeding up rapidly.
"No, no!" she said through gritted teeth, glancing at the radar. The red blinking dot was surrounded by maybe twenty white ones. "Come on!"
And then it was gone. The radar fell silent, the red dot disappeared. She pulled the brakes and the ship skidded to a halt, landing roughly and making Loki fall forwards this time. 154 stared out of the window helplessly, her hearts sinking.
"Mae?" Loki called gently. "What's wrong?"
He didn't see the radar nor heard the sudden silence of it. He was utterly confused and worried about her.
"Don't call me that!" she snapped. "I'm not Mae anymore, you hear me?"
"What happened?" he asked again, ignoring her anger.
"They... they died," she breathed, not looking at him. "I wasn't quick enough. The Sakaarans killed them. Shit!"
"Does that mean you're in trouble?" he raised his eyebrows.
"Then why are you so upset?"
She remained silent, still avoiding his gaze, her bottom lip trembling.
"I have never let anyone die before," she whispered after a moment of painful silence. "I always got to them on time."
"Maybe they were too weak," Loki suggested. "Hurt from the fall or something."
"Yeah, maybe," she nodded slowly, obviously getting lost in thought. She didn't snap out of it until something hit the window. She winced and tried to find the intruder. A few seconds later, she noticed a small group of the masked Sakaarans throwing what seemed to be rocks at her. She started the engines rapidly, not willing to fight them. They were yelling something, but she ignored them, turned the ship around and flew back to the city.
"What are they?" Loki wondered. "You call them Sakaarans, but they don't seem to be the same people as I met in the city."
"They're not," she shook her head. "They were too poor and not worthy for Grandmaster to enslave, so they live off of the trash that lands here."
"That must be- did you say enslave?"
"Precisely," she confirmed. "Don't look at me like it's my fault! I'm sort of a slave too, he bought me all those years ago. But I do get paid since I bring more slaves to him and sometimes I cover 142's shifts as his bodyguard."
"You didn't seem very busy over the past days," Loki noted.
"Because I wasn't. It's not very often that someone appears there, it's mostly junk," she explained, easing the ship back into the hangar and landing carefully.
"So what do you do when you're not saving people or protecting Grandmaster?"
"I train a lot," she replied. "But I'm mostly in my quarters, which is why 142 thinks I'm lonely," she made a sour face. "I just don't like the people here. And people in general, while we're at it."
"What do you like then?" he took the chance to find out at least something about her.
"Interesting question," she admitted and got up from her chair. She opened the door and walked out, inspecting the outside for any damage from both the rough landing and from the Sakaarans' attack. When she found nothing, she finally turned to Loki.
"I like music. The kind that makes you relax and just wander around in your own mind," she said. "I can play something for you, I have some recordings in my TAR- in the closet," she corrected herself quickly.
"That sounds wonderful," he nodded. "Sure. Let's listen to your music."
"It's not my music," she chuckled. "But I know what you mean. Come on then."
Chapter 8: Seven
They arrived back at her quarters again, 154 still in a strange mood after not being able to save the poor creature outside. She walked over to her TARDIS, gently running her fingers on the wood.
"We're gonna have to go inside," she told Loki. "So no wandering around, alright? You could get lost."
He only nodded in acknowledgement, swallowing the question that was lingering on his tongue. He followed her inside and looked around in awe despite already being there once. She was standing next to the console, her eyes trained on a small monitor, her fingers pressing various buttons, functions of which he could only guess.
"There it is," she said. "Earth, twenty-first century. I'm telling you, this guy is a pure genius."
With that, she pressed one final button and the room was filled with soft tones of a piano that were soon joined by a violin. She sat down on a chair and made herself comfortable.
"How can you have music from Earth here?" Loki wondered.
"Oh, my TARDIS has quite a large database of, well, everything," she grinned, but then she made a face suggesting that she regretted her words. The next question that Loki was about to ask was inevitable.
"What is this place?"
She let out a deep sigh. "It's my spaceship."
"It doesn't look like one," he objected.
"Because it's masking itself," she explained. "I needed to keep it here in my room, so it masked itself as a closet. It uses this thing we call the chameleon circuit. It adapts to the environment."
"Who is this we?" he frowned. "The people of Sakaar?"
"No, no, not at all," she shook her head. "Us Time Lords."
He blinked a few times. "You're- you're a Time Lady?"
She was surprised by his correct use of words, but nodded.
"But I thought that they were ancient watchers of time," he frowned. "That they shaped timelines and made sure no one messed with Time itself."
"You're mistaking us with Guardians of Time. There's six of them and they hold the Key to Time, they cannot exist without it, but Time Lords are a whole race. We- they live on Gallifrey," she corrected herself bitterly, remembering being an outcast.
"Oh, sorry, yes, I know which ones you mean," he nodded. "Aren't they dead?"
"No they're not," she replied, but then she stiffened. "Are they?"
"I heard stories about them," Loki began carefully and sat down on a chair next to her. "One was about a war."
"The Great Time War," she confirmed with a sigh. "That's when I left."
"So... so you don't know what happened?" he asked.
"No. They didn't have a reason to contact me, I'm presumed dead," she told him. She chose not to mention the fact that they were actually the ones who "killed" her. "What exactly happened?"
"There's a story about a man, one of your kind, who sacrificed the whole race to destroy the enemies and to end the war, and that the whole planet vanished from the sky," he was almost whispering. "I don't know how true it is though. It could be a lie."
She didn't say anything for a few moments, taking in his words and trying to imagine the scenario.
"But how would he do that?" she finally spoke. "How would one man make a whole planet vanish? That doesn't really make any sense. Besides, wouldn't he then be completely alone?"
"I suppose he would," Loki admitted. "But as I said, it's just a story that I've heard. It might not be true at all."
"You're right," she mumbled thoughtfully. "And why should I even care? They banished me. Sort of."
"Aaaaand that's enough talking about me," she smirked, hoping to avoid his question. "What about you?"
"What about me?" he frowned.
"Tell me something about yourself," she encouraged him. "What do you like?"
He thought for a while. "Books. I really like books. It's like a whole world that you can hold in your hands. And in a library, you can choose whichever you want to discover."
She gave him a warm smile, probably the first one. "There's a library around here somewhere, wanna go?"
They got up and looked around. A door appeared to their left.
"Thanks," she said quietly to the console. She walked up to the door and opened it, revealing an enormous library. The smell of books hit their noses, conjuring a small smile on their faces.
"After you," she gestured for Loki to come inside, holding the door for him. The music followed them inside, adding nice touches to the space and creating a wonderful atmosphere. He came to one of the many bookshelves and read the title of the first book that he laid his eyes on.
"The theory of everything – final version?" he read out loud.
"Yeah," she nodded. "We're in the science section now."
"Have you read that?" he wondered, seeing the book spine cracked and the pages slightly crumpled in a few spots.
"Quite a few times," she smirked. He raised his eyebrows slightly and opened the book, finding an assortment of mathematical formulas and equations.
"And you understood it?"
"Of course I did," she chuckled. "It's not that complicated really."
"My definition of not that complicated looks significantly different," he mumbled to himself, closed the book and returned it to its original place. He ran his fingers across the whole shelf, only seeing more books with complicated scientific titles. Some didn't even have titles at all and only had a number or a symbol on them.
"I'm pretty sure that you're not gonna find anything of interest here," she laughed when she saw the confusion on his face. "What genre do you like the best? You can find them all in here."
"There is every book here?" his jaw dropped.
"No, don't be silly, this is not The Library, but the TARDIS is telepathic and can adjust itself to your taste," she explained.
"How?" was the only word that came out of his mouth after trying to form a question that would be fit for the confusion he felt.
"I'm not the right one to answer that question, I'm not a TARDIS engineer," she shook her head. "I think there's something called Matrix maybe? And that somehow connects to your mind. It also translates for you."
"You now understand every single language in the universe. You're welcome."
He wanted to ask a few more question, but he was certain the answers would only confuse him more, so he stopped himself. Instead, he started walking away from the science section, hoping to find a good story somewhere. Fortunately, he found a promising section only a moment later. The bookshelves were marked mystery.
"Try this one," 154 handed him a small book titled And Then There Were None. "It's short, but I can guarantee you're gonna love it. Super confusing and when you think you finally know who did it, you find out you were completely wrong. It's a masterpiece."
"What is it about?" he asked, taking it from her.
"You don't want me to spoil it for you, do you?" she chuckled. "But basically, there's ten people who have never met each other or heard about each other, and they are invited to this mysterious island, either to work there, to have a vacation, to meet old friends. Later they are all accused of murders of some kind," she said mysteriously. "It's one of the best detective novels that have ever been written, I promise."
"Sounds intriguing," he admitted.
"It is," she confirmed. "And after you will have finished, check this one. It's not a mystery one and no one dies in there, but it's a really good read."
She reached for another book in a tall shelf, knocking a few of the other books over.
"Ow," she hissed and picked them all up, returning them to their original place. Then she walked back to Loki and gave him the one that was remaining – Saturnin. "This one falls on the easier side of the spectrum, but it doesn't make it any worse. It's a light-hearted story that takes place on Earth in the twentieth century, in the countryside of a tiny country. Very relaxing to read."
He watched the enjoyment in her face with an amused little smile.
"Don't you laugh at me," she scolded him lightly. "You want to read it or not?"
"Yes, sure," he nodded. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she replied. "Wanna stay here or take it back to the room?"
"Let's stay here. It's really nice," he suggested.
"Alright then. Let me fetch some chairs," she grinned and left him there with the two books in his hands. She returned a few minutes later, pushing two comfortable (and heavy) looking armchairs. A bit out of breath, she placed them in a cosy little corner next to each other and left once more. When she came back this time, she was carrying a tray with a large teapot and two cups. She set them on a small table that happened to be close by, and turned to Loki.
"Let's have an idyllic afternoon with nice books and tea, what do you say?" she grinned.
"That actually sounds..." he hesitated. "Quite delightful."
She flashed him another bright smile and took a seat in one of the chairs, grabbing a book from a nearby shelf. "Come on, don't make me wait," she pointed to the other chair. He sat down, laid Saturnin on the table next to the teapot and began reading the mystery novel.
154 smirked and poured them both a cup of tea before digging into her own book, the ever so wonderful Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Halfway through the first book of the trilogy, her watch started beeping aggressively.
"What, twice in one day?" she frowned before looking at it and seeing it was actually a call from 142. She pressed the button on the side. "Hello?"
"Don't hello me, where the hell are you?" yelled the voice loudly, ruining the atmosphere. "I've been looking for you everywhere! And that guy is gone too, what the hell are you thinking? Boss thinks you've murdered him and wants to see both of you immediately!"
"Oh," the realisation hit her. "How long have we been gone?"
"Two days!" 142 replied angrily. "Wherever you are, come back right now, you idiot. I don't care if you killed him or if you're shagging somewhere, get here. I'm in your room right now."
"Be there in a minute," 154 told her and turned the device off. Then she turned to Loki, who was looking at her expectantly. "You closed the door, didn't you?"
"What door?" he frowned.
"The door! The door to the ship!" she got up quickly, leaving the book on the chair.
"Well yes, of course I did," he nodded.
"Dammit, I should have checked," she mumbled. "Get up! We're in trouble."
He closed his book – with an annoyed groan, because he was only a few pages away from finding out who the killer was – and got from the chair, following her outside. They ran through the corridors that seemed to magically appear there with the sole purpose of slowing them down.
"Not now!" 154 yelled at no one in particular and tried to find the console room. It took a few minutes of furious sprinting around the ship, sometimes barging into random rooms. When they finally reached it, she almost kicked the door open and they both stumbled into the bedroom. 142 was facing the other way, hypnotising the main door. When she heard the noise, she turned around rapidly.
"You have the bed the size of my whole bathroom and you do it in the closet. Unbelievable," she smirked.
154 didn't have any time to protest before 142 left the room and gestured for them to follow her.
Chapter 9: Eight
After spending solid two hours listening to Grandmaster yelling at them, they were finally allowed to leave. 154 her best to explain to him what really happened, but it was no use. He only carried on with being unreasonable. He even threatened to use his melt stick on her, but luckily, 142 was there to stop him. And Loki also showed quite a few diplomatic skills there.
When they returned to her quarters, she was strangely quiet. Despite knowing she was right and that Grandmaster was a huge douchebag, she felt guilty when she was being yelled at. She always did. So when they arrived, she went to the shower right away (since it was getting quite late), washing her hair for the first time since her injury, and when she came out again, already changed into her pyjamas, she didn't say a single word. She just curled on the couch that was now her bed, hid under the blanket, and stayed completely silent. Loki knew she was not sleeping, but she didn't respond to him in any way.
"Mae?" he called softly. He remembered she asked him not to call her that, so he tried again: "154?"
He sighed and grabbed the book he left on the bedside table, determined to finish the last few pages. All she heard for a few minutes was his breathing and turning the pages.
"You're kidding me," he whispered. Mae could not help but smirk, knowing exactly how he felt. "How could it be the judge?"
"I couldn't believe it either," she mumbled. "I mean, everything was pointing to Lombard, am I right?"
"My guess was that doctor Armstrong," he smirked. "Honestly the only one who I thought was less likely than the judge was miss Brent."
"What about Marston though?" she questioned.
"Well yeah, but I don't count him, he was the first one to die. And also Rogers' wife and that general," he shook his head.
"I keep forgetting that they were even there to be honest, especially Marston and the general," she chuckled. There was a short pause, then she asked: "Did you like it?"
"Of course! I loved it!" he said excitedly. "I never really read any mystery books, I don't think there were any on Asgard. I see I missed out a lot."
"Quite," she grinned. "There are more in the library if you want. Agatha Christie was a genius."
"I think I'm gonna go for the other one you gave me, my brain would probably explode if I read more than one of these at a time," he laughed.
"Sure," she nodded. "Hey, I need to confess something to you."
"What is it?" he frowned.
"You were right," she said hesitantly. "The couch is really uncomfortable. My back hurts like hell."
Loki laughed whole heartedly. "Well, this is your bed after all, so why don't you join me?"
She didn't say anything, but got up, grabbed the pillow and the blanket and carried them both back to the bed. When she lied down, she could not help but sigh in content. She really missed the soft but not too soft mattress.
"Better?" Loki smirked.
"Much better," she confirmed with her eyes closed. "Thanks."
"No worries," he laughed. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Go ahead," she encouraged him.
"If that... place... is a spaceship, why didn't you run away if you hate it here so much?"
She let out a long, long sigh and turned to lie on her side, facing him.
"I wanted to," she started. "I really, really, really wanted to. But the damn thing doesn't want to move. And shut up!" she turned towards the ship.
"Why are you talking to it?" he frowned. "It doesn't speak."
"You just don't hear it, it's a telepathic thing," she explained and laid back down. "It keeps saying that we are surrounded by... what was it, wormholes? Yeah, some sort of space holes. And that it would be dangerous or something."
"If there's a way in, then there must be a way out," he pointed out. "Doors work both ways."
"That's an interesting way to put it," she smiled. "I actually think that I could be able to make the TARDIS move, but there would have to be at least one more pilot. It's designed to have six pilots, one can technically handle it, but the flight is terrible, I can tell you that, but with two... it could work. Even through wormholes."
"Then what are you waiting for?" he wondered.
"It's not that simple," she told him. "No one except for us Time Lords knows how to fly it and- hang on, did you just suggest we could... uh... run away?"
"Why not?" he shrugged.
"Don't be ridiculous, you wouldn't be able to fly it in a normal situation, but flying through a wormhole... that would be a lot of running around and panicking and things beeping and maybe exploding..." she trailed off. "And I got quite used to Sakaar over the years. Besides, I'm sure they would somehow detect me being back in the universe, track me down and I would be dead in no time."
"You must have really pissed them off," he noted.
"Sort of," she mumbled. Sensing he wanted to ask more, she added: "Good night, Loki," and closed her eyes.
Despite not really doing much that day, she fell asleep quite quickly. It most likely had something to do with being back in her own bed. She dreamt of space, so big and wonderful, so full of beauty and things to discover, so tempting.
There was one man on Gallifrey who ran away and just travelled with people. She heard stories about him. The highest of Time Lords hated him. Could he be the one Loki mentioned earlier? The one who ended the Time War? He could still be out there, alone, she could maybe join him...
But could she really? Could she leave Sakaar and everything and everyone on it, including 142, behind and start over? Fly around the universe in her TARDIS, having adventures? Hiding away from the Time Lords? With Loki by her side?
She woke up rather late. When she opened her eyes, she saw Loki's face dangerously close to hers, their legs a tangled mess. She attempted to move away from him, but noticed his arm was around her waist. She didn't want to wake him, she knew it would be awkward, so she tried her best to shift away without disturbing him. She held her breath as she moved his arm away, trying to be as gentle as possible. Without any sounds, she slowly left the bed and tip toed to the kitchen, where she finally dared to exhale. The places where they touched suddenly felt cold. She shook the feeling off and poured water into the kettle to make herself a cup of tea. Right before she turned it on, she remembered that he always made tea for her and decided to return the favour, so she added more water and began looking for mugs. She rushed to the kettle as it beeped loudly, pouring the hot water over the teabags she had prepared. Despite how hard she tried to make as little noise as possible, Loki walked to the kitchen only a moment after she tossed the bags away.
"Good morning, Mae," he smiled. "Slept well?"
"Yes, yes, of course," she nodded, feeling heat rising to her cheeks. "You?"
"Very well, thank you," he replied. "Your hair smells nice."
"Oh, um... thanks," she mumbled. "Do you... do you maybe want to go reading again? I noticed you were interested in my science books, maybe I could find something you'd understand."
"Maybe after I finish the one you gave me earlier," he agreed.
"You know what, I don't feel like changing from these pyjamas today, let's just go inside and read," she proposed. She took her mug from the counter and as she was on the way to the ship, she also took her thick blanket from the bed. "Don't close the goddamn door this time, will you? Put a shoe in there or something."
"I'm right on it," he nodded and grabbed his mug too. He found a random shoe lying beside the bed and blocked the door with it. After he made sure the door was not closed, he walked in the direction of where he hoped to find the library.
He ended up next to a swimming pool. He turned around to walk back to the control room, but it was not there anymore. Instead, he found a glorious kitchen.
"What... what's going on?" he asked.
A door opened on the other side of the room, but it obviously didn't lead to the library. It seemed like a gym.
"Mae?" he called. "Mae! I think I'm lost!"
He ran out of the kitchen, through the gym and opened a door to his left. Still not the library. This one looked like a common room, with comfortable looking couches and a fireplace. He left that one too and found himself in a long grey corridor, seemingly endless. He kept running, spilling his tea everywhere, including himself. He hissed in pain – it was still quite hot.
"Mae!" he tried again, taking a right turn. A lab. He groaned and left, continuing to run in desperate attempts to find the library. Within ten minutes, he managed to find another swimming pool, a hot tub, more labs, a large closet, another gym, a few bedrooms, a rollercoaster, and finally he got lost in a mirror labyrinth. He was beginning to panic slightly, worrying he would never get out of there. And he also forgot the book on the bedside table...
"Where the fuck are you?" Mae's voice suddenly filled the space.
"I- I don't know," he admitted in defeat, still trying to find his way out of the maze.
"Didn't I tell you to go to the library?" she sighed. "What does the place look like?"
"It's a... I think it's a mirror labyrinth," he replied after a moment of hesitation.
"There's a bloody mirror labyrinth here?" he could picture her frowning. "Whatever. Stay exactly where you are, don't move one millimetre, I'm coming for you."
"As you wish," he nodded. He slid down one of the mirror walls and looked around. All he could see was himself, multiplied infinitely. He tried entertaining himself for a while by making faces at himself and watching them from different angles, but it made him feel dizzy after a while. He was not even sure if he was real anymore. He could be just one of the reflections. So he sat there, drinking the rest of the tea, waiting for Mae to save him.
It didn't take more than a few minutes for him to hear footsteps nearing him.
"Are you really here?" she asked from a distance.
"Yes, yes I am!" he replied loudly.
"Stay there, I'm on my way to you," she instructed him and began walking. He got up and tried to guess which direction she would come from. One moment she was definitely on his right, but only seconds later she seemed to be behind him. He kept turning around to make sure he would face her when she came to him. He started seeing her in the mirrors, just as confused as he was.
"Why the fuck does this place have a bloody mirror labyrinth?" she mumbled to herself as she was trying to find her way through. She kept walking into clear glass and sometimes into the mirrors. She began feeling dizzy, seeing herself so many times. After a while, she noticed Loki's reflection in one of the mirrors, so she headed in that direction only to lose him shortly after.
"Dammit," she hissed. "Are you still here?"
"Affirmative," he replied from a completely different place than she expected him to be. She turned around and began walking very slowly.
"Keep talking, it might help me find you more easily," she suggested.
"What do you want me to talk about?"
"I don't know, anything. I just need to hear you," she explained, trying her best to follow his voice.
"Um... so... we already talked about the book you gave me, that doesn't really leave me with any more options," he said.
"You're unbelievable," she rolled her eyes, but smirked slightly. She understood that struggle. "What was your life like before you ended up here?"
"It was... complicated," she heard him sigh. "I've always been told that I'm a prince of Asgard, son of Odin, but a few years ago, it turned out I actually wasn't. I wasn't Asgardian at all."
"Then where are you from?" she questioned. She caught a glimpse of him in the mirror and turned right. She could see more of his reflections immediately.
"Jotunheim," he said.
"I might be a bit rusty on my Norse mythology, what place is that?" she wondered.
"It's the land of the Frost giants," he replied. "And I turned out to be the son of their king."
"Oh," she noted. "That must have... changed your view...?"
"Quite," he chuckled, pain filling his voice.
"So what did you do after you found out?"
"I sort of... tried to wipe the giants out," he mumbled. "And almost died while doing so. Things got quite crazy from that point."
"I can imagine that," she smirked.
"I don't think you can..." he said to himself more than to her. She finally reached him.
"Here you are, thank God," she smiled. "Here, take my hand so we don't lose each other again," she stretched out a hand for him to grab, but hit something hard. Glass.
"I think you might be talking to the reflection," he laughed.
"Shut up," she scolded him. "Can you see me? Like the real me?"
He looked around for a bit and then smiled; "Yes, I see you!"
The reflection disappeared as he began walking. She stayed in her spot, not moving a muscle. She looked to her right where she expected him to appear, but he was not there. He tapped her shoulder from the back and she gasped.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," he apologised briefly. "Let's get out of here, shall we?"
"Yes, definitely," she nodded. "This place makes my brain hurt."
"Says someone who has read a book called The theory of everything and understood it," he poked her in the ribs.
"Ha ha ha, very funny," she grabbed his hand and started searching for a way out. "How did you even get here?"
"I just... walked through a door that I thought led to the library, ended up next to a swimming pool, then a kitchen, then a gym, a living room, then there was a corridor... I just got lost," he said.
"The TARDIS is bored," she sighed. "She has to stand in the room all the time and can't do anything, so I guess she just took the chance to entertain herself for a while."
"Every word in that statement just sounds wrong," he smirked. "Watch out for the glass!"
"What?" she turned around to face him. Which she should not have done, because as she kept walking, she bumped into the glass.
"I said to watch the glass," he had stifle a laugh.
"Don't laugh at me, idiot," she rolled her eyes. "I'm getting nervous."
He could feel her hand getting shaky and clammy. He squeezed it gently to let her know he was there to help. She glanced at him and backed away from the wall so she could walk around it. She could feel her breath getting shallow and unsteady. We're gonna have a very serious talk, my dear friend, she thought. She didn't get a reply, but she didn't care. All that mattered now was that they get out of there.
Her head was spinning around from all the reflections she saw. Her legs felt weak. This was taking forever.
"Mae?" he forced her to stop. She turned to him with a questioning look in her eyes.
"We've been walking in a circle for the past five minutes," he told her.
"No we haven't," she frowned. "Have we?"
"Why don't you just ask the ship to point us to the exit?" he suggested.
"I doubt it's- oh," she didn't finish the sentence as she noticed a bright white line suddenly appeared on the floor.
"Would you like me to lead the way now? You look quite..." he trailed off, not sure what to say.
"Anxious?" she smirked. "Yes, sure. Go ahead."
They switched positions so Loki was now at the front, dragging Mae behind. She stopped paying attention and zoned out. She only snapped out of it when they were finally out of the labyrinth and she took a deep breath. She let go of his hand to support herself against a wall.
"I really hate you sometimes," she mumbled, trying to catch her breath. "If you ever do this again, I swear I'll force you to change into a bloody matchbox and leave you at the bottom of my actual closet, you little shit."
The ship stayed eloquently silent.
"Now show us the shortest way to the library, if you please," she said louder this time. A bulb switched itself on above one of the doors. "Thank you very much."
She walked over to it, walked through and finally found herself in the library. The warm air made her tensed up body relax at least a little bit and calm her shaking hands.
"Are you alright?" Loki asked, concern evident in his voice. She nodded and walked over to the chairs where they had spent their time the previous day. She sipped her tea and made a face – it was already freezing cold. She sat down, grabbed her book and indulged into the world of Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy again. Or so it seemed to Loki. Her mind was still racing, her hearts pumping fast, she had trouble hiding her shaky hands.
He watched her for a while, deciding whether he should talk to her about it or not.
Alright then. No talking.
He began wandering around the shelves, searching for a book he could read. He had the one she recommended him earlier in the room, but he didn't want to bother her by getting lost on his way out, so he resolved in looking for another one.
"Don't get lost," he heard her call. He turned to her and saw a small smirk on her face. At least he knew she was not that upset.
Chapter 10: Nine
This is probably my favourite chapter out of the whole thing. Fluff!
Days were passing nicely. Mae and Loki grew closer as they had to spend quite a big portion of time together. She didn't really mind in the end, as opposed to what she thought the first time she met him. He was actually quite nice, caring and fun to be around. They barely talked, they mostly read books in the library, listened to music and drank tea. Sometimes, however, they would either talk about the book they finished or just chit chat. It was mostly him who started the conversations, but she always participated happily. She even got used to sleeping in one bed with him, it actually felt quite nice to have someone this close to protect her.
About two weeks after the whole labyrinth situation, as they were getting ready for bed, a lightning suddenly illuminated the room and a roaring thunder sounded through the air. Mae instinctively dove into the space between the couch and coffee table with a shriek, covering her ears. Loki seemed amused.
"That's not funny!" she scolded him when she saw his face. Within a few seconds, the sky outside got dark and a strong wind began blowing. Soon enough, objects that were too light started flying around. He could even see a person. As if it wasn't enough, rain started pouring from the dark, heavy clouds. There was even more lightning and thunder. Every time Mae heard it, she squirmed slightly.
"Are you alright?" Loki frowned and crouched next to her. Her breaths were shallow and unsteady.
"Do I look alright?" she mumbled.
"It's just a storm, it's not the end of the world," he tried to smile reassuringly.
"You have obviously never been caught in a Sakaaran storm. See that man over there?" she asked, gesturing towards the window.
"Yes," he nodded after he spotted the flying person again.
"I was in his place a few years ago when I started here," she explained and closed her eyes. "I'd only been here for about a week when I got caught in one of those. I was flying around for a bit and then I got hit in the head. I woke up here with a concussion and broken ribs. Dear God, please make it go away," she whispered the last sentence.
"Hey," he put his hands over hers as she was still covering her ears. "It's gonna be alright, don't worry. Let's get you off the floor and to the bed, shall we?"
She took a deep breath and nodded, feeling her whole body shake. He helped her get up and led her to the bed, sitting her down.
"I'll close the curtains so you don't have to look at it," he told her gently.
"No, please stay with me," she whispered, tears welling up in her eyes.
"I will, look," he assured her and snapped his fingers. She watched as the curtains on the window closed, hiding her away from the horrifying outside world.
"I forgot," she chuckled bitterly and shivered as another thunder boomed, louder than the last one. She shut her eyes and pressed her lips together so they formed a thin line. She lied down on her pillow, curled into a ball, covering her ears once again. She could feel the blanket being pulled over her and the warmth of Loki's presence. His long arms wrapped securely around her body as he pulled her close. She opened her eyes and looked at him, confused. Even though she always woke up with him embracing her, he never did it when they were awake, so she suspected him of doing it in his sleep.
"I will protect you," he said, smiling. "Though I am sure my brother would never harm you."
"Your brother?" she frowned. She could still hear the heavy rain hitting the window with a force that made her worried would break the glass.
"Thor," he explained.
"Oh," she nodded. She moved her hands so they were now resting on his chest and closed her eyes once more, letting out a shaky breath.
"How are you so calm?" she whispered. "Your heart is beating... normally."
"Yours isn't?" he wondered.
"No they're not," she corrected him.
"You have more than one heart?" his eyebrows knitted in confusion.
"Two," she said. She guided his hand to the middle of her chest so he could feel them beating.
"You're really scared," he noted, his voice low and quiet. "Don't be scared, Mae, I'm here with you. You're safe."
"I'm safe," she repeated. "I'm safe."
For some reason, she believed him. She moved closer to him, leaning into his hand and allowing his touch to calm her down.
He felt her pulse slow down gradually until it seemed back to normal, or almost. He lifted his hand off of her chest and instead put it on the back of her head, playing with her hair.
They heard a thud and an alarming crack. Something must have hit the window. Mae gasped and closed her eyes, burying her face in his chest, feeling a tear slipping down her cheek.
"Do you want me to go check the window?" he asked gently. She shook her head vigorously and wrapped her arms around him.
"Don't leave me," she breathed. "Please. Don't go."
"Alright, don't worry, I'm not going anywhere," he nodded. "It's okay. I promise."
"Tell me a story," she mumbled. "From your life. About Asgard. Something."
"I don't think a story from my life would really cheer you up," he smirked bitterly.
"Make something up," she begged. "Just talk about something. I need to hear your voice."
"Anything at all, pretty please, I'm starting to seriously freak out," she urged him as a white light shone through the curtains and another thunder echoed through the room. "For fucks' sake, recite or poem or something."
After a moment of silence, he finally began:
I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
'Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near
Mae let out a sigh, closing her eyes in content. Loki felt her muscles relax as she breathed deeply. His voice was hypnotising in the most beautiful way. Low and quiet, ever so gentle, almost making her forget the danger outside. He smiled, seeing how much she suddenly relied on him. He was slightly tempted to kiss her on the forehead, but he was worried he would upset her, so he decided against that. Instead, he continued with the poem;
And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
'Twill be a lovely sight.
"That's beautiful," she whispered. "Is there more to it?"
"I'm afraid there's not," he shook his head in an apologetic manner.
"Doesn't matter," she said. She sounded like she was floating away, sleep taking over her. "Thank you," she added, barely audible. She didn't mind the roaring thunders anymore. Her breaths were deep and calm as she finally fell asleep.
( The Rain was written by William Henry Davies)
Chapter 11: Ten
They were woken up by the annoying beeping and vibrating of Mae's watch. She ignored it at first and it actually stopped after a minute, but as a moment passed, it started again, seemingly more aggressive. She groaned and tried to get up to turn it off, but was stopped by Loki's arms that were wrapped around her tighter than usual.
"Can you turn that thing off?" he suddenly asked. She winced, a blush creeping onto her cheeks. She had always woken up first and managed to sneak away before he did as well so she never had to deal with the awkwardness of waking up in his arms. There's a first time for everything, apparently.
"I'm trying to," she replied, wriggling her arms from his grip.
"Oh, right, sorry," he realised what was going on and freed her from his embrace, allowing her to finally sit up and look at the watch. It was a call from 142.
"Hey, what's up? Why are you calling me so early in the morning?" she asked.
"It's past noon, idiot," 142 chuckled. "Grandmaster wants that Loki on one of his parties or whatever."
"Parties?" she frowned, giving Loki a questioning look. "At noon?"
"You know how he is," Mae could almost picture her smirking. "Just bring him here."
"I'll be right on it," she nodded and ended the call. She then turned to Loki, who was still lying down comfortably. "Get dressed, the Grandmaster wants you on a party or something."
"At this hour?" he rolled his eyes. "He really is quite strange."
"You tell me," she chuckled. "Come on, he's gonna kill me if I don't bring you there on time."
"Fine," he sighed. "But I would much rather stay here with you."
She turned away, feeling heat rise to her face again. "Just get dressed already," she mumbled and rushed to the bathroom to do the same. When she walked out, she found him dressed similar way he was the first day she'd met him. It looked like some sort of armour, with a long yellow cape.
"I prefer the casual clothes," she blurted out.
"Me too, actually," he chuckled. "Let's go."
She led him through the endless labyrinth of the palace corridors, bumping into a few people on the way. When they finally reached the so called throne room, she stopped in front of the doors.
"So, there you go. I'll see you later?" she suggested. He looked at her, confused.
"You're not coming?" he wondered.
"Yeah, nah, this is not really my thing," she shook her head. "I'll go back and read some Sherlock Holmes or something. Have fun though."
"Come with me," he grabbed her hand as she was beginning to leave. "Please. I think you need to see other people besides me sometimes."
"You're the only person I want to see," she insisted awkwardly. "You'll tell me about everything in the evening, alright? I don't want to be around these people."
"Pretty please?" he looked at her with puppy eyes. She sighed in resignation.
"Fine," she rolled her eyes. "But as soon as someone starts trying to socialise with me, I'm out of here."
"I can protect you," he laughed. "Come on."
He opened the door and led her inside the ginormous room filled with people. She shivered in disgust. Loki squeezed her hand and began walking towards a group of people he apparently knew. She forced back a sigh as he began talking to them, letting go of her. Someone handed her a brightly coloured drink and she took a sip, making a face. There was an empty spot on a nearby couch and Loki suggested they could both go sit there. She agreed – it would not be as awkward avoiding eye contact while sitting down. She stared into her glass, masking the fact that she absolutely despised everyone in the room besides Loki. She sipped on the liquid occasionally, but mostly just wondered what colour it was. It seemed to be teal, but if she moved the glass slightly and the light changed, she could see it shimmering gold. Or was it silver?
"Loki!" an unfamiliar voice suddenly called from the other side of the room. "Loki! Over here! Loki!"
Mae looked around and found a long haired blonde man sitting in a chair not very different from the one she was tied to the first time she met the Grandmaster. He was looking at Loki and seemed to be getting angry for some reason.
Loki got up and began walking towards the man, leaving Mae behind.
"Wait, don't-" she tried to call after him, but he got lost in a group of people. He seemed upset as well. Mae didn't want to stay on the couch alone, but it seemed like the situation was awkward even without her standing on the side, so she continued staring into her glass, stealing glances from Loki and the guy from time to time. It looked like they were arguing about something, whispering aggressively. Moments later, the Grandmaster joined, turning it even more unpleasant for both of the men, winking at Loki for some reason. She frowned, not sure what to make of that. It took only a minute before Grandmaster sent the man's chair somewhere out of the room, with the blonde guy constantly yelling "Loki!"
She waited for him to turn around and then looked at him with her eyebrows raised. He laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head.
"What happened?" she asked when he walked back to her. "Who was that?"
"That was... my brother," Loki grinned, trying to mask his discomfort.
"Thor?" she frowned. "Why was he so mad at you?"
"He always is, I lost track a while ago," he shrugged and sat back next to her. Mae chuckled.
"How are you doing so far?" Loki asked, changing the subject.
"Awful," she admitted with a sigh. "I feel like everyone is staring at me."
"Do you want to go back?" there was concern evident in his voice.
"I'll go, you stay here, I don't want to ruin the fun for you," she shook her head. She got up from the couch and began walking away.
"I'll go too, I don't want you to be alone," he caught up to her and smiled.
"You don't need to do that, have fun," she insisted.
"Anything for my favourite Time Lady," he grinned. "Lead the way."
She blushed and walked out of the crowded room as quickly as possible, almost running. She barged out to the corridors and felt a weight being lifted off of her chest. She slowed down, almost enjoying the walk. They reached the quarters and she simply liedon the bed, too lazy to go inside the TARDIS. Loki laughed slightly and joined her, reaching on the bedside table for the book he left there the first time they have been to the library and forgot about it completely.
"Would you mind reading it to me?" she suggested shyly. "I love that book."
"Not at all," he smiled. "Shall I make some tea before I begin?"
"I'll go make it, you start," she nodded, got up and rushed to the kitchen. Loki chuckled, made himself comfortable on the bed and began reading.
"Even though I never liked all the comparisons and parables that doctor Vlach uses in his fiery speeches, I have to admit that I find the example with a café, person and a plate of doughnuts to be quite true. It allows me to show you what type of person Saturnin is," he read, his voice as smooth as last night when he was reciting the poem. "I don't know where this is going, but I already like this man," he laughed.
"He's brilliant," she confirmed. "The whole book is like this."
She poured a kettle of hot water into a teapot, grabbed two large cups from the cupboard and brought them to the bed. She then lied down with her cup and waited for Loki to continue.
"Doctor Vlach has divided people into three groups according to how they act in a half empty café, having a plate of doughnuts in front of them. Imagine a luxurious café on a Sunday morning. It's a beautiful day outside and there are not many people there. You have already eaten your breakfast, read all the newspapers and now you are resting comfortably in a cosy couch and are staring at a plate of doughnuts. Boredom is slowly spreading across the whole café.
"And this is when, according to doctor Vlach, you find out what type of person you are. If you are a person lacking imagination whatsoever, a person without any desire for adventure and with no sense of humour, you will stare at the doughnuts mindlessly until noon and then you will get up and go get lunch.
"I suspect doctor Vlach of putting me in this very group. I do not think he is correct. Let's not talk about the humour and adventures, but the fact that he believes I have no imagination, knowing that I managed to fill out tax return forms without any errors leaves me shocked. But that does not matter. Even if I had fitted within these people, it would be much nicer than being a member of the second group, which is entertaining itself by imagining what would happen if someone began throwing the pastries on the other customers."
Loki laughed loudly, most likely imagining the situation. "This is amazing," he said. "I'm definitely this type of person."
"You sure you're not the third one?" Mae smirked. "Keep reading."
"I fail to recognise why a grown up and reasonable person would think of such things. However, I completely agree on the fact that doctor Vlach, as he says, belongs within this group. He seems to be proud of it for some reason."
"The third type is in the next paragraph," she interrupted him.
"If fate had not presented me with Saturnin, I would have never believed that there is even a third type of people, some sort of white ravens. Those are people who are amused by the idea of flying doughnuts so much that they get up and make it happen," he chuckled. "Alright, I'm the third type," he admitted.
"I knew it!" Mae giggled. "I'm not brave enough for that, I always stick with imagining things."
"I think it's actually better to do that, you get in a lot less trouble," he noted.
"That is true," she nodded. "I diverged from just imagining once and look where it has led me. Killed by my own people and living on a trash planet with a random weirdo who fell from the sky."
"That hurt," he smirked. "What do you mean killed?"
"Not killed, but they think I'm dead," she explained. "Are you going to keep reading?"
"I'm curious now, what happened to you that you ended up here?" he wondered. "You're so mysterious, Mae."
"It's just a hard thing to talk about," she sighed. "But fine, I trust you to not judge me too hard."
"I'd never judge you," he said firmly. Mae smiled dryly and took a breath to begin the oh so tragic story of her banishment from home. She spoke in as much detail as possible, even though it was quite painful for her. It had been years, but still, remembering her old life felt strange.
"So... the substance started getting out of the lab even though it had been put into quarantine," she was nearing the end of the story. "And I was so stupid that I thought it would be alright. People started getting really sick, some of them so badly that they had to be taken to the hospital. When they found out what was causing that, they immediately went after me and instead of facing the consequences like the responsible person I should have been..." she trailed off, remembering how utterly stupid and selfish that was. "I ran away."
"You knew about Sakaar?" Loki seemed surprised.
"No," she shook her head and sniffed. "I just wanted to get out, to go as far away as possible. They, of course, tried to get me and as they were chasing me in the Vortex, I couldn't fly straight and fell out. I was naive for thinking I could actually get away."
"But you did get away," he frowned.
"Not in their eyes," she said. "From their point of view, I'm dead. No one can survive the void."
"Does their point of view matter?" he still didn't understand.
"No," she admitted. "But I don't think I got away. Being on Sakaar is like a punishment for me. I used to be one of Gallifrey's top scientists and now I look for slaves in a dumpster, and my friends are another hunter, a beast and a Norse god. That sounds like a really rubbish sci-fi novel, doesn't it?"
"Why rubbish?" he raised his eyebrows. "I would read that."
"You read everything I present you with," she smirked.
"Yes, and since your taste in books is quite exceptional, if you presented me with that, I would read it and probably enjoy it," he insisted. "Don't be so hard on yourself."
"It's been a while since I've heard that," she mumbled as she sipped her tea, hiding her blush. "Are you going to keep reading or do you want to... talk?"
"Whichever you prefer," he replied.
"You know which one I prefer," she laughed, nudging him in the ribs slightly.
"Reading it is then."
(The book Saturninwas written by Zdeněk Jirotka and translated into English by me.)
Chapter 12: Eleven
As the evening approached them, Loki seemed to be getting increasingly agitated. He kept stumbling over his words and tapping his foot.
"What's wrong?" Mae asked after it started really getting on her nerves, particularly the foot.
"The Contest of champions," he replied.
"What about it?" she frowned.
"My brother's going to be there tonight, fighting that Champion Grandmaster always talks about," he explained, rubbing his eyes.
"Oh," she nodded. "Well, uh... I don't really know what to tell you, you know. He's been here for two years and no one has ever defeated him."
"I know," he mumbled. "That's why I'm so worried."
"I thought you didn't like your brother," she noted.
"It's... complicated," he admitted. "But I don't want him to get hurt."
She let out a sigh. "I'm afraid I can't help you, but I can go there with you, as some sort of... emotional support?"
"That would be great," he smiled faintly. "Thanks, Mae."
"No worries," she assured him. "Speaking of which, it might be for the best if we got ready and headed to the arena, it's gonna be quite crowded. Or we can take my ship and watch it from above, if you'd prefer."
"Grandmaster has invited me to sit in his loge," he shook his head. "He says it's the best place to watch it from."
"Well that's true," she nodded. "But I'm afraid he might not let me go there. I'm just a Scrapper, not one of his close ones."
"He let you to the party today, why not there?"
"That's different," she insisted. "Besides, he didn't even notice me."
"And if I told him that you're there with me?" he suggested.
"Then maybe," she agreed. "Either way, we should get going."
She got up from the bed and headed to the bathroom where she tried to make her hair look at least a little presentable, but gave up shortly. She sighed and walked out, finding Loki resting against the entrance door, waiting for her.
"Don't worry, you look great," he grinned. "Lead the way."
She rushed out of the room before he could notice how flustered she was. It took about half an hour to get to the arena. Not only was it quite far away from the palace itself, but there were also crowds of people that were slowing them down. She made sure that Loki was with her every few meters since she was worried he'd get lost.
"This is the Grandmaster's balcony. Loge. Whatever he calls it," said Mae when they finally reached the door. "I'm really not sure I should go there, Loki."
"Just stay by my side and everything will be fine," Loki smiled at her and walked in. She followed him nervously, looking around. She recognised a lot of the people from the party earlier that day, still as repelled by them as always. There was a smaller fight going on, meaning they got just on time before the main event. Mae could see Korg, the Kronan who was brought there a few years ago, and presumably someone new.
"It looks so much different from over here," she mumbled.
"What are you doing here?" someone asked her. Grandmaster.
"Well, I, uh-" she stuttered. She was not used to him being this close.
"Mae was kind enough to accompany me here," Loki jumped in, seeing that Grandmaster was about to send her away. "I hope it's not a problem."
The man's expression softened. "No, not at all, my dear friend. I'm glad she's finally going out too. I saw you earlier today at the party. Why did you leave so soon?"
"I felt sort of claustrophobic," she confessed. She decided that it would be better to be honest with him.
"Why?" he frowned.
"Well, I'm not really used to being around so many people, so it was quite uncomfortable," she explained, wrapping her arms around herself. "But, uh, Loki was with me, so it wasn't that bad."
"You two get along quite well, don't you?" he noted. "Even though you said you didn't want him to be with you."
"Yes, yes we do," she nodded and looked at the ground. "We-"
The crowd suddenly started cheering even louder than before. Mae turned around and saw that the fight was over, with the not-Korg lying on the ground, unconscious and possibly dead. Shivers ran down her spine.
"Excuse me now, I have a speech to make," Grandmaster grinned and walked away, leaving Mae and Loki alone. They watched as a huge hologram of Grandmaster appeared in the middle of the arena.
"Look at all of you! What a show, what a night!" his voice echoed through the space. "Who's having fun?"
The crowd cheered again and Mae rolled her eyes, making Loki laugh.
"Please! I'm your host," he continued. "Big round of applause for all of our undercard competitors, who today died so gruesomely. Good sports. What a show! What a night! This is what you've come for, and so have I. And now, without further ado, it's main event time."
More cheering and clapping and noise.
"Making his first appearance, though he looks quite promising, he's got a couple of tricks up his sleeve. I'll say no more, see what you think," he smirked. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you – Lord of Thunder."
Everybody started booing. Mae looked down and saw a tiny figure walk out of the main door. He looked a lot different than at that party – his hair was much shorter and he had two red lines drawn down his face. He looked around and then began walking into the middle of the circle.
"Watch out for his fingers, they make sparks," Grandmaster added before he started way more excitedly about the Champion; "Okay, this is it! Let's get ready to welcome this guy. Here he comes!"
Fireworks began booming and green clouds of smoke erupted from the audience. Stomping could be heard from within the building and Thor winced.
"He is a creature, what can you say about him? Well, he's unique, there's none like him, I feel a special connection with him. He's undefeated, he's the reigning, he's the defending. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you..."
The big gate started opening.
"Your incredible..." he dragged on the e at the end, but before he could say his name, he ran out of the door, destroying it.
"HULK!" he screamed.
And then Thor did something that no one expected.
"YES!" he was smiling brightly, apparently excited for some reason. Everything went silent.
"I have to get off this planet," Loki mumbled to himself and turned to leave. Before he could get out, however, he was stopped by Grandmaster shoving him back and pointing to the big white couch in front of the glass. Mae tried giving him a questioning look, but he was completely frozen, staring in front of himself.
Hulk was a show off, as every night. He was hitting his chest like a gorilla, screaming his own name, making the crowd repeating after him. Thor managed to turn his attention to himself by waving at the Grandmaster and yellling: "Hey! We know each other! He's a friend from work!"
Grandmaster looked at Loki, who avoided his gaze, clearing his throat awkwardly. Thor kept talking, but Mae didn't hear him anymore. He was talking to the Hulk, so she didn't bother.
"Loki! Look who it is!" he was grinning happily. Loki's face was suddenly lacking all colour whatsoever. Thor ignored that and said something else, to which Hulk replied: "No Banner, only Hulk!"
Now Thor was the one who looked scared. He began running away as Hulk attacked him. He tried fighting back, but it was useless. No one could defeat the Hulk.
Or so she thought. Thor seemed to actually match his strength, fighting back quite effectively. After a while, he even managed to send him flying all the way across the arena, destroying the walls. Everybody gasped audibly and then went completely silent as Thor walked over to him, then offering him his hand. Mae was not exactly sure if Hulk was actually confused or pretended to be, but after a moment, he seemed to snap out of it and attacked Thor again, throwing him to the middle of the place. He pinned him down and began smashing his face with his fists. Mae closed her eyes, not wanting to see that. She only heard the sounds.
Suddenly, something that sounded like the cracking of electricity started filling the space and the air smelled of ozone. She opened her eyes curiously and saw that Thor, who was still lying on the ground was beaming with light. Mae squirmed, worrying there might be some thunder as well, but all she heard was the electricity.
Then he exploded, sending Hulk on the other side of the arena once more. He got up and began walking towards him, but when he was almost there, he suddenly began shaking and after a few moments, he fell to the ground, allowing Hulk to take full advantage of him. Mae looked over to Grandmaster and as she expected, he was holding a remote controller to the obedience disc on Thor's neck. She shifted her gaze to Loki, who was still as pale as a wall. He finally looked at her too.
"Let's get out of here," she suggested quietly. He nodded and got up, rushing out of the place quickly. She could barely keep up with him, almost losing him at one point.
"Wait!" she called for him in hopes he would recognise her voice and stop. She caught up to him in just a moment, reaching for his hand. "Slow down, I can't walk as fast as you can, I have short legs."
"Sorry," he mumbled and slowed down. They reached Mae's quarters soon and Loki sat down on the couch, staring into the wall on the other side.
"So... can you explain what the hell just happened?" she asked and sat down next to him. "What was all that about? Do you know the Hulk?"
"It's a rather unpleasant memory," he said clutching on his ribs.
"You fought him?" Mae raised her eyebrows. "How did you get out?"
"He... I suppose he went quite easy on me," he replied.
"Would you maybe tell me the story?" she proposed. "I'll listen carefully and be here if you need anything. A hug, maybe?"
He chuckled dryly. "I suppose I owe you for earlier today."
"You don't owe me anything," she shook her head. "You're the one who's constantly saving my ass."
Loki sighed and took a more comfortable position on the couch. "It's gonna take a very long time though."
"I have all the time in the world, so no worries," she smirked. "And also a lot of tea."
And so he told her about everything. How he has always felt as if there was a shadow over him. How he found out that he was not the child of his parents. How angry it made him. So angry that he decided to wipe out all of the Frost giants, just to show that he was not one of them. That no one understood, and so he let go and threw himself off of the Bifrost. How cold and empty the universe was to him. But then, there was someone who told him he understood and that he could give him what he deserved. Of course he agreed to his conditions, he was desperate, he didn't hesitate for a single second. He didn't think of the consequences. Not until it was too late.
He trusted this man, this Thanos. He was alone and scared, casted out, betrayed. Conquering Earth seemed like a good way of getting revenge. He didn't realise that humanity would fight back, making him feel even worse after they finally defeated him. He was shortsighted and he had to face the consequences, the judgement of his family, being imprisoned like some sort of monster. His brother, however, gave him a chance to redeem himself, and he did his best to do so. He sacrificed himself for Thor, feeling a strange sort of relief when he felt his life leaving his body in that dark, awful place.
But then, suddenly, he was back on his feet, being questioned by Thanos. He failed him, he knew that, but he did not realise that Thanos was going to make sure he would succeed and fulfill his promise to bring him something called the Tesseract. Loki tried explaining to Mae what it was, but she didn't understand. Everything that made up the universe being formed by tiny little gems? That was just ridiculous.
Loki didn't have any other choice but to work for Thanos again. He would destroy everything he ever loved if he didn't. So he pretended to be Odin, hoping he would work out what to do eventually. Before he could, however, Thor realised that something was not quite alright, which, in the end, led them both to Sakaar, somehow freeing their evil older sister on the way, who was now probably heading to destroy Asgard.
"And I thought I was in a mess," Mae laughed slightly when Loki finished the story. "No, sorry, that was inappropriate. What I meant to say was – that's unbelievably terrible, Loki. This guy, what did you say his name was? Thanos? He sounds really dangerous."
"He is," he nodded. "But I have to say that he is not exactly wrong."
"In forcing you to do such a thing as conquering a level five planet?" she frowned.
"No," he shook his head. "In his belief that the way to save universe is to reduce all life in half."
"What? That's what he wants to do? Save the universe?" she straightened her back. "I'm not any sort of expert, but shouldn't someone try to stop him?"
"It's not that simple," Loki shook his head.
"Look at us," Mae chuckled. "Former villains club. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure that he can't get to you anymore. Sakaar is on the edge of the universe."
"I wouldn't be so certain," he smirked bitterly.
"Allow me to remind you that literally nobody knows about this place unless they end up here by accident," she insisted. "And even if he did come here, he'd have to go through me to get you."
"You'd fight Thanos so he wouldn't get... to me?" he seemed confused, not quite able to wrap his head around her statement.
"Damn right I would," she nodded.
"But... why would you risk like that?"
"Because I care for you, idiot," she nudged him in the ribs. "And Grandmaster would probably murder me if something happened to you, so..."
"But mostly because I really care for you. Shouldn't friends have each others' back?" she asked.
"I suppose they should," he agreed.
"And I don't want to be a bad friend, now do I?"
He remained silent, staring into the empty space.
"Don't you tell me I made you emotional," she laughed. "Did I?"
"Slightly,"he admitted reluctantly. She let out a sigh and wrapped her arms around him,burying her face in his chest, not only to show him sympathy, but also to hideher oncoming blush. She seemed to have a problem with that lately, her faceconstantly heating up and her cheeks darkening for some unknown reason. Shedecided to deal with that some other time.
Chapter 13: Twelve
Mae didn't remember falling asleep, but she was woken up by Loki shifting next to her and getting up. She opened her eyes to see him walking over to the door, greeting Topaz.
"Boss wants to see you," she said in her ever so bored voice.
"Why?" he asked and crossed his arms on his chest.
"He's pissed," she shrugged. "Come on."
"Give me a second, I'll just write a note to Mae so she doesn't get worried," he returned to the room and noticed that she was awake already.
"What's going on?" she wondered as she stretched her back. "Dammit, we shouldn't have slept on the couch," she mumbled to herself.
"Grandmaster wants to see me for some reason, and he's apparently angry," he explained. "Would you go with me?"
"He wants only you," Topaz interrupted. "I'm sure you can handle being separated for a while."
Mae glared at her, then turned to Loki with a smile. "It's alright. I'll just hang around here, unless, you know, something pops up. See you later."
"Don't read that book without me," he grinned as he was on his way to the door.
"What do you think I am, some sort of traitor or what?" she laughed. "I promise that book will remain untouched until you return, don't worry."
Topaz rolled her eyes and left, Loki following right after her. Mae sighed. Even though she was originally used to being alone, now she could not stand the silence in the room. It felt as if something was missing, something important, almost essential. Like you had a complete jigsaw puzzle and someone stole the piece in the middle. It was unnerving.
She walked to the TARDIS and played some music to fill the void. She left the door open wide and put one of her shoes in there to prevent it from closing. She gave the console a warning look as she headed to the library, not quite sure what to do with the day. She wandered around the place, running her fingers on the book spines with little interest. She ended up in the non-fiction section and stumbled upon a desk with dishevelled papers all over it. She began inspecting them with a frown only to realise that they are the notes she made not long after she got on Sakaar in attempt to find out why the reaction of the Zygon and Racnoss venom was so aggressive. She sighed and sat down, deciding that she was going to read everything through. Maybe after all that time she will find the problem. After a moment, she got up and searched for a whiteboard so she could make a better sense of things. Soon enough, the whole space was covered in drawings and equations.
"I know," she mumbled to herself as she was aggressively wiping away a plus sign that she put there, hoping to solve everything. "We just shouldn't have mixed these two. Simple."
She continued staring at the board, tapping her chin with the marker. Then she spotted something that could actually make the difference.
A misplaced end bracket.
She cursed out loud. She was not sure if it was her who did this equation or Lehla, but either way, the other one should have noticed. If not right away, then during the few days they spent trying to figure it out.
She did the calculation again with the correct brackets this time and sighed. It made a lot more sense now. With this solution, they would have known not to mix the two, at least not in their lab. There were ones with special equipment for dangerous experiments.
She also redrew the graphs and diagrams and realised that they could have read everything that happened from them. This one predicted the impact that the mixture had on the lab – the equipment, the walls and the floor. That one showed how fast the gas would spread in the air. And the last one was literally screaming THIS STUFF IS GOING TO POISON PEOPLE.
As everything sunk in, she realised one more thing – someone could have used it as a weapon. Time Lords have once claimed to be peaceful, but she didn't trust them. After all, she remembered the Great Time War vividly. She sat down, covered her mouth with her hand and stared at the numbers. She was so stupid, so naive. Her whole body was trembling and her eyes were flooded with tears.
How many have I killed? went through her mind again and again, louder and louder, screaming at her. It got to the point where she could barely hear anything else, not even her own breathing. She got up and rushed out of the library, out of the ship, to pour herself a glass of water and down it within mere seconds. As she was trying to set it back down on the counter, it slipped from her clammy fingers and fell to the ground, shattering. She knelt down to pick the shards up, but ended up just sitting beside them. I'm a murderer.
She felt hopeless, sinking deeper and deeper into her own conscience. And the one person who could save her from drowning was currently unavailable. She pulled herself back to her feet, deciding she would seek out for him. She was aware of the fact that he was probably with Grandmaster, but she has never felt this low. She practically ran out of the room, heading to her boss' chambers. As she was nearing them, she bumped into someone.
"Watch out," Topaz hissed at her.
"I'm sorry, I was-" Mae began apologising, but Topaz interrupted her.
"Looking for your boyfriend?" she smirked. Mae blushed and turned her gaze to the floor. "Last time I saw him, boss sent him off with 142."
"To do what exatly?" Mae frowned.
"Haven't you been paying attention to anything that has been going on?" Topaz laughed. "That guy from yesterday, the thunder man or whatever."
"Thor. You mean Thor," Mae corrected her, annoyed. "What's he have to do with anything?"
"If you'd let me finish," Topaz rolled her eyes. "He ran away and took the Champion with him. Boss wants your boyfriend and her to find them."
"Stop calling him my boyfriend," Mae uttered. "Where are they then?"
"No idea," Topaz shrugged. "Good luck finding."
With that, she was off. Mae groaned, now more confused than before. Going out and searching the whole city would take ages, so she decided to go straight to 142's room and wait for her there.
"Surprise," she heard Loki's voice as she entered the room, dragging on the i. "Oh. I didn't expect you."
"What the actual fuck is going on?" Mae crossed her arms on her chest. "What are you doing here? Is this some sort of... perversity?"
He was tied to a chair with strong chains, probably unable to move in any way.
"This?" he smirked. "Your lovely friend wants make sure I won't run away."
"That does not in any way explain why she did that," she shook her head. "What happened?"
She walked over to him and tried to figure out a way to get rid of the chains. She ran her fingers across the individual links, trying to find a weaker one.
"She wants to help my brother and Hulk escape Sakaar," he explained.
"And what's your role in that plan?" she knelt down so she didn't have to bend her back. Her fingers grazed his legs occasionally, but she was not paying attention to it. Or she tried to.
"She apparently wants me to help them as well," his voice was trembling slightly from the contact. "What are you doing here anyway?" he tried to change the subject nervously, hoping she didn't notice his unease.
Mae stopped her actions for a brief second before taking a deep breath. She was now behind him, he could not see her, but he still felt her hands on him. Even though she was not touching his skin, he could feel goosebumps forming in the spots where her hands lingered longer.
"I wanted... I needed to talk to you, Loki. I... I solved the problem," she stuttered, refusing to look him in the face when she said that.
"What problem?" he frowned, confused.
"The explosion. I know where the problem was."
"Let me guess. You shouldn't have mixed those two."
"Well, basically. One of us made a mistake in the equation, therefore we thought it was safe to do the experiment, while it was actually the worst idea in the history of chemistry and we probably created a deadly weapon."
"That sounds... unpleasant."
"Unpleasant?" she laughed dryly, feeling a lump forming in her throat. "Loki, I'm a murderer!"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but you didn't intend to kill them, did you?"
She shook her head, but then realised he could not see her. "I didn't," she whispered.
"You just made a mistake," he continued softly. He wriggled his hands in hopes he could grab hers to make her feel better. The chains were tight, but he managed to free his right one.
"I did," she confirmed, grabbing onto his offered hand.
"That's not a murder, my dear Mae," she could hear the smile in his voice as he managed to lace his fingers with hers. "It was an accident, you need to stop beating yourself up for it."
"But I didn't do anything about it, did I? I let it do its thing, I didn't try to stop it or anything. I just watched what it did and didn't give a shit about what it could do to people," a sob escaped her lips and she clasped her free hand over her mouth to stop any more from coming. She rested her forehead against the back of the chair and closed her eyes, trying to stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks.
"Mae," Loki drew nonsense patterns on the back of her hand with his thumb. "Mae, listen to me."
By the Allfather, I have never wanted to hug anyone this badly, he thought. He kept running his thumb over her hand, waiting for her to calm down at least a little bit.
"Mae," he tried again a moment later. He hated how he couldn't see her, but this would have to do. "You are not a murderer, do you hear me? You made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. Someone makes small ones, someone makes bigger ones, but in the end, they are all just errors of judgement. You are not a bad person, your hearts are in the right place, even though you might think otherwise. Understood?"
"I think so," she sniffed. "Thank you, Loki. And I'm sorry for acting like a hysterical little wimp," she wiped the rebellious tears from her face and carried on with trying to find a weak link in the chain as if nothing had happened. Loki did not say anything, not exactly sure how to react to her nervous apology.
A few minutes later, her fingertips finally came across a part of the chain that was not as sturdy as the other ones. It must have been the one 142 used to connect the two ends together.
"Ha!" she grinned. "There we go."
She used both of her hands to pry the link open, but before she was finished, she heard the door sliding open.
Chapter 14: Thirteen
Mae looked up and saw 142, Thor and a guy she has never seen before. 142 froze upon seeing her, but then just smirked and walked in. Thor frowned, grabbed an empty can and threw it at Loki. It hit him in the head and he scowled at his brother.
"Ow," he growled.
"What did you do that for?" Mae asked and stood up, crossing her arms on her chest. "He didn't do anything to you, did he now?"
"Just had to be sure," Thor replied and walked in as well, heading towards a table where 142's sword lied. "Who are you?"
"Scrapper 154, your highness," she sneered. "142, what the hell is going on? Why did you do this? And who is this dude?" she pointed at the man who was apparently way too uncomfortable in his clothes, seeing he kept pulling at his pants. Everyone ignored her questions, focusing on Loki.
"Hello Bruce," he greeted the man calmly, a strange smirk playing on his lips.
"So... last time I saw you, you were trying to kill everybody," said the guy called Bruce instead of greeting him back. "Where are you at these days?"
"It varies from moment to moment," long gone was his gentle tone and warm, reassuring smile, instead his voice was low and quiet; his eyes cold as ice. Mae gave him a look, but he did not say another word.
"142," Mae grabbed her by the forearm. "Explain. What is going on? Why have I just been told that you are trying to help Thor get out of here? Why the hell do you care? You never care."
"None of your business," 142 snapped back. "Get out of here."
"Fine. I might as well report you to Grandmaster then, since he seems to be looking for this guy," she pointed at Thor.
"You wouldn't do that," 142 laughed dryly and shook her hand off, walking to the other side of the room and rummaging through her things.
"Would I?" Mae insisted, trying to sound confident. "You tied my friend up like some sort of a monster and want to use him to get out. You think I wouldn't want to protect him? Watch me."
She headed towards the door, silently praying that someone would stop her.
"Mae, wait," Loki called after her. He was the last one she would expect to do so, but she turned around and cocked her eyebrow. "We might need your help," he explained.
"We? Who is this we all of a sudden? Excuse me, but what in the name of Rassilon is going on here?" she questioned.
"Rassilon? As in-" Thor started, but Mae gave him a deadly glare and he shut his mouth.
"That is not an important information right now, I want to know what is happening, how the fuck did you get out, who is this weirdo, but most importantly, where exactly are you planning on going and why is Loki tied here," she demanded fiercely.
"Asgard, our home, is in danger," said Thor slowly, taking a step away from her. "We need to save our people."
"That makes sense," she nodded, her voice calmer now. "Go on."
"I tied this bastard up because he tried to kill me," 142 picked up.
"No I didn't!" Loki objected. "You were the one who knocked me out."
"Because you tried to kill me," she insisted.
"I wanted to talk to you and you started getting all defensive," said Loki.
"That is not how you talk to a person!" 142 walked over to him, getting her fist ready just to punch him in the face. Mae reacted instinctively, grabbing her wrist and spinning her around.
"Calm the fuck down," she hissed at her. If looks could kill, Mae would probably use up all her regenerations by now. 142 freed her arm from her grasp, still glaring at her.
"Can we please go over the plan now without anyone trying to kill someone else?" Thor proposed. "We need all the help we can get, so maybe we could convince you as well, 154, Mae or whatever your name was."
"Not until you get Loki out of those dumb chains and talk to him as your equal," Mae nodded, folding her arms again. Everyone, including Loki, looked at her with mixed emotions. Thor and Bruce were simply confused as hell, 142 was smirking and Loki seemed surprised as well, but also... proud?
"Why are you so protective over him?" 142 snickered. "You barely know each other."
"I know him well enough to know he's worth protecting from assholes," Mae replied. 142 rolled her eyes and looked over to Thor, who simply shrugged. Then she walked over to Loki, grabbed the already half broken link and finished what Mae started. The chains fell to the floor with clinking and Loki stood up.
"Thank you very much, dear," he smirked at 142.
"You alright?" Mae asked.
"Just my wrists are a bit sore," he remarked, bitterness in his voice as he watched 142 get rid of the chains.
"Can I take a look?" she suggested. He nodded and gave her his hands. She ran her fingers across the dark spots on his wrists, noticing how he winced as she touched him. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"Can you two lovebirds start paying attention?" 142 rolled her eyes again. Mae let go of Loki's hands and stepped away from him, her cheeks reddening.
"I'm not- we're not- there's nothing b-between us," she stuttered.
"Yeah, sure," 142 smirked. "So, Sakaar and Asgard are about as far apart as any two known systems. Our best bet is a wormhole just outside of city limits. Refuel on Xandar and we can be back in Asgard in about... eighteen months?"
"Nope," Thor shook his head and pointed out of the window with the sword. "We are going through the big one."
"The Devil's Anus?" 142 cocked her eyebrows.
"Anus?" Bruce asked from the other side of the room where he was munching on some fruit. "Wait, wait, wait, whose anus?"
"For the record, I didn't know it was called that when I picked it," Thor explained himself awkwardly.
"You must be absolutely nuts if you think you can get through the Devil's Anus," Mae shook her head. "It's-"
"That looks like a collapsing neutron star inside of an Einstein-Rosen bridge," Bruce interrupted her as he walked to the window, pointing to the massive hole in the sky. It looked as if someone tore the clouds into pieces and shoved a big red sphere inside it.
"That's exactly what it is, seriously, who are you?" Mae frowned, getting more and more curious about this stranger. "Only humans call it Einstein-Rosen bridge, are you from Earth?"
"Yes I am," he nodded firmly. "Since when do Asgardians know anything about, well, anything?"
"Don't be rude," Loki smirked.
"I'm not Asgardian," Mae explained.
"We need another ship. That will tear mine to pieces," 142 interrupted them, taking a big sip from a bottle.
"She's right. We need one that can withstand the geodetic strain from the singularity," Thor continued. Mae gave him an impressed look.
"And has an offline power steering system that could also function without the onboard computer," Bruce nodded.
"Mae's got a ship."
Everyone, including Mae, turned to Loki, Mae with a death glare, the others somewhat surprised and expectant.
"I told you she doesn't want to move," she hissed.
"She?" Thor frowned.
"Yes, she refuses to move because she is surrounded by fucking wormholes! And you'd want to drive her through the biggest one?" she pointed at Loki aggressively. "No wonder she doesn't like you."
"You said it could work if you had one more pilot," Loki insisted.
"Not through one with a fucking neutron star in the middle of it!" she fought back, poking him in the middle of his chest with her index finger. "And besides, none of you know how to fly a TARDIS, do you?"
"You could yell instruction at us," he shrugged. "From what I've heard about the Time Lords' ships and from what I've seen, it would make a wonderful escape ship for our people if things went south."
"What do you mean?" Thor asked him.
"I mean that if we are fighting someone who destroyed Mjölnir with no effort, we need an escape plan. Maybe we're going to need to get our people out of there," he explained.
"Since when are you so considerate?" Thor frowned.
Loki looked a little bit hurt.
"But he's making a point there," Bruce noted. "If there is a ship that can fly through the bridge and that is also big enough to fit the people of Asgard inside, we should use it."
"We can't use my TARDIS, alright? She won't let us fly through that thing," Mae felt like speaking to a bunch of four year olds.
"Didn't you tell me a few days ago that she is bored because she has to stand in the corner of your room while looking like a closet?" Loki queried.
"I think I'm getting lost. What sort of ship looks like a closet and can fit hundreds of people inside and gets bored?" Thor questioned with his eyebrows furrowed.
Mae decided to resign. "You'll see. Come on."
She walked out of the room with Loki by her side and the others on their tails.
"If I die doing this, I'm gonna murder you, understand?" she mumbled towards Loki. He chuckled nervously and scratched the back of his neck.
They reached her quarters in just a few minutes, with Mae heading directly into the TARDIS. When the others were not following, she walked out again and beckoned them inside. 142 made a sour face while the two men simply looked dumbfounded.
"That's not a ship," said Thor.
"Yes it is, come on," Loki rolled his eyes and walked in. His brother followed just a moment later, then 142 and Bruce was the last one to join them.
"But this is... how is this..." he stuttered as he was looking around. "I feel like my head is seriously about to explode."
"It's bigger on the inside, yes, but please don't freak out, you'll get used to it," Mae smirked and walked towards the control panel. She ran her fingers across the board, picking up a thick layer of dust. She always avoided the control room when she was inside and it was pretty noticeable. She could feel the console vibrating gently under her touch, as if it were purring.
"Hey, friend," she mumbled. "What would you say to an adventure?"
The sound from the cloister bell echoed through the space.
"She doesn't like it," she noted. "Try explaining why you need her," she turned to Thor who seemed to be getting more confused each second.
"You want me to talk to the ship?"
"Yes. If she understands that you just want to help people, maybe she will let us fly away," she explained.
"How am I supposed to do that?"
"With your mouth, maybe?" she rolled her eyes.
He still appeared unsure.
"For fuck's sake, you can look at the column in the middle if you're that uncomfortable," she groaned.
Thor straightened his back and walked closer to the console, his eyes fixed on it.
"Uh, hello... ship," he started and Mae facepalmed. "We need your, uh, help. My evil sister wants to rule over our planet and we need to stop her, but we are stuck here and you are the only ship that can get us out."
"Try saying please," Loki mocked him. Thor gave him a warning look, but Mae gestured for him to do as he was told.
"Please?" he sighed. Still nothing. "Pretty please?"
"You have to smile too," Mae tried to stifle a giggle, failing. Thor, however, took her seriously and smiled like the Cheshire cat.
The ship finally reacted with a small huff.
"What's that supposed to mean?" 142 asked.
"She's gonna try to get out of here safely," Mae smiled. "Could you please stand here?"
"Because I'm going to need you to work with this panel as we're flying and you wouldn't reach it from over there."
"You want me to steer?" 142 cocked her eyebrows.
"I need you to steer. I need all of you to steer," she pointed to the others. "Bruce, could you please go over here? And Thor, here. Loki, you go over here."
They all went to their positions and waited for further instructions.
"Fine. Great. This is gonna be amazing," she mused. She walked over to Loki and guided his hands where she needed them to be. "Keep this lever in this exact position. It's going to move around a lot and we don't want that."
"Got it," he smiled. She nodded and moved on to Bruce who was still looking like a lost puppy.
"Don't worry, it's not that complicated. All you have to do is watch this number," she pointed to a tiny monitor. "If it gets below zero, you flick this switchy thing down. If it gets above, you flick it upwards, alright? And the same thing goes for this number and this switch."
He nodded, but didn't look very sure. She patted him on the shoulder before heading to Thor.
"Your task is to make sure that these five buttons are always pressed down, alright?" she realised she may have to speak a bit slower for him to understand. "It's just like with the lever, as we're going to fly through the Anus, the ship is going to react in all sorts of ways. When they pop up, you just press them back down. Simple as that. Do not touch any other buttons."
"This doesn't look very complicated, why do you need five people to do it?" he wondered.
"The TARDIS is designed to have six pilots. You can technically fly it with just one person, but you have to run around a lot and multitask the whole time, which would be practically impossible when flying through a wormhole, because there is a lot going on."
"Ah," he still didn't comprehend anything, but tried to appear ready.
"Any more questions?"
"No," he shook his head.
"Well then, off to you," she grinned at 142. "Same thing as Bruce. Watch these numbers and keep them to zero."
She didn't say anything, just steadied her hands on the switches. Mae took it as a sign of understanding and walked over to her part of the console.
"Where to, then?" she asked Thor.
"Asgard," Loki answered instead of him.
"Wait, no, not yet," Thor shook his head. "To the prison cells."
"What? Why?" Mae frowned.
"As I said, we need all the help we can get. We're going to ask the prisoners to kindly help us. They are all skilled fighters and I believe they could use some change."
"Alright then. Prison cells it is," she put the coordinates into the navigation system and moved one of the levers down dramatically. The column in the center began moving up and down.
The TARDIS was flying again.
Chapter 15: Fourteen
Getting to the prison took barely a minute. The landing was absolutely smooth for the first time in Mae's life. Having the others there to help really made a difference.
Before anyone could do anything, someone banged on the door.
"Oi!" they heard them. "We don't want a magic cupboard here! Piss off!"
"Your majesty," 142 gestured to the door. "I believe this is your business."
Thor nodded and walked around the console, heading to the door.
"So," Mae smiled nervously. "A bit of a warm up there, I would say. Not bad, was it?"
"I didn't even notice we moved," Loki told her.
"Liar," she laughed. "I can assure you that flying through the Anus is going to be much worse."
"Flying through the Anus. How low have we descended?" Loki asked, tiny wrinkles of laughter forming around his eyes. Mae giggled and covered her mouth with her hand in embarrassment.
"Will you two stop acting like kids?" 142 hissed at them. "My God, it's dreadful to watch you flirt."
"No one's flirting, shut up," Mae glared at her. Before 142 could reply to her, however, Thor returned with a large group of prisoners on his tail. Mae could see Korg at the very front, looking around curiously, with an insect-like creature called Miek by his side.
"Freaky cupboard," Korg noted.
"Gentlemen, if you could please continue this way," Mae smiled at them and pointed to a door that appeared to her right. "Unfortunately, we can't have you all standing around here while we're trying to fly this thing."
"Completely understandable," Korg agreed and walked over to the door, holding them open for the others. Mae could not help but chuckle slightly at it. Out of all the gladiators, Korg was her favourite. He would be just as good doing stand-up comedy as he was kicking gladiators' asses.
"What about the obedience discs?" he asked Thor.
"Uh, yeah, Mae?" Thor looked at her awkwardly.
"What?" she frowned.
"Some of us have expressed their concern about the boss being able to control them from a large distance, so we would prefer to get rid of them," Korg explained. The diplomacy in his words was quite admirable.
"Right, hang on a second," she nodded and left to find a toolbox or something similar. She rummaged through one of the many cupboards in the ship and found she hoped would work. She returned to the control room while fiddling with the small wand-like device, trying to find the right setting. Without a warning, she pointed it to Korg's neck and pressed the button, cringing at the high-pitched buzzing it made. After only a few seconds, the disc switched itself off and fell to the ground.
"What the hell is that?" Korg pointed at the device in her hand.
"It's, uh... it's a sonic screwdriver," she said, inspecting it. "I'm not sure why they call it a screwdriver though, it looks nothing like it."
"It surely doesn't," the Kronan agreed.
"Would you do me a favour?" Mae suggested, changing the settings once more. "Take it and do the same thing I did for you for the others, alright? All you have to do is go there and press the button, it's going to deactivate them all at once. Be gentle with it."
"I'm right on it," he smiled and walked to the room with the other gladiators. Mae walked back to the console and looked at the others nervously.
"We'll have to go through the Anus manually," she told them. "It's going to be awful. But if we all concentrate, we can handle it. I hope."
"You hope?" panic was almost dripping from Bruce's voice. His skin was pale and his eyes were wide.
"Don't worry, Bruce, we'll be fine," she tried to give him a reassuring smile. "Just take care of your switches and ignore everything else."
He nodded stiffly, turning his gaze to his part of the console. Mae prepared the ship for take off and positioned her hand on the big lever. Her breath was trembling.
"Three... Two... One..." she whispered to herself. "Now."
She pulled the lever down and everything started moving. The column in the center was going up and down again, but this time with way more noise accompanying it. The cloister bell was echoing through the space loudly and something that resembled brakes screeching could be heard as well.
"That doesn't sound good," 142 mused, a worried look plastered on her face.
"Shut up and concentrate," Mae scolded her, trying to make sense of the things she could see on the monitor. They were approaching the Anus and the readings from the scanner were getting alarming.
"Bruce! Increase the left number to three!" she yelled across the console as they were all jerked to the side.
"How?" he yelled back.
"Keep the switch down for a bit and-" she was cut off by a numbing pain in her right hand. A short circuit. "Loki, can you take over this for a bit? I need to fix that."
He did not answer, but reached for the lever she was holding in place so she could take a look at the broken operator. She realised she would need the screwdriver.
"KORG!" she screamed. "KORG! COME HERE THIS INSTANT!"
The door opened and the Kronan stumbled in just as the ship yanked again, throwing them completely off balance, causing them all (including Korg) to fall to the ground.
At that point, everything got worse.
As everyone was forced to let go of their controls, the flight got even crazier. The ship began spinning around multiple axes, throwing them all over the place. Mae hit her head on one of the pillars and landed right next to it. She cursed under her breath and hugged it like a koala would a tree, ignoring the pain spreading from the back of her head. She looked around and saw everyone in a similar situation. Bruce was clutching onto the base of the console desperately, Thor was holding onto the door that Korg walked through, 142 was lying against the wall, searching for something to grab and Loki was nowhere to be seen.
"Korg! Where are you?" she called, realising she also could not see him.
"Over here!" she heard him from her right, which soon turned out to be her left as the pillar snapped in the middle, sending her flying to the console, knocking the wind out of her for a second. She turned in the direction of his voice, but still did not see him.
"Here! Waving at you!" she could finally see the big rocky hand moving from side to side. He was holding onto Thor's legs.
"Throw me the screwdriver!" she commanded as something exploded right next to her.
"You sure it's a good idea?" he questioned.
"No it's not, but DO IT!"
"Don't get screamy at me, lady!" he scolded her. However, he moved his arm and she could see the fairly small object flying across the room, not ready at all. She watched as it went in a completely different direction than he had intended, landing at least five meters away from her.
"YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT YOU WERE ABOUT TO THROW IT, YOU IDIOT!" she roared.
"Don't worry, I got it!" she heard Bruce cry out. "What do I do with it?"
"Get it to me!"
Luckily, Bruce was not as far away as Korg, so he could just reach out and hand it to her. She did her best to get as close to him as possible so he did not have to do much, and grabbed the screwdriver.
"ThankGod," she whispered. Clutching onto the console like a drowning man on a straw with one hand, she searched for the correct setting on the screwdriver with the other. After a few seconds, she was able to point it at the console and press the button, hoping for the best. She heard the whirring noise faintly, and then-
Chapter 16: Fifteen
With one final yank, they were thrown to the ground, and then everything stopped moving. Mae scrambled herself back to her feet with a painful hiss and turned the main monitor to her so she could see what happened.
"We did it!" she cried out happily, seeing nothing but the empty, beautiful space all around the ship. "We made it through the Anus!"
"Yayyy..." she heard 142's faint voice from below the console. "I'm starting to regret agreeing to this."
Mae chuckled and walked over to her, offering her a hand to help her get up. She took it reluctantly and Mae pulled her up.
"You okay?" Mae asked her.
"Yeah, sure," she nodded with a sour smile. "You?"
"I'm good," Mae replied. "I think. You guys?"
"This was a terrible idea," Thor groaned. "I can't feel my legs."
"Might be because that pile of rocks is still clinging to them," Loki, who finally appeared from behind one of the pillars, smirked. He looked surprisingly collected, apart from his dishevelled hair.
"Sorry, bro," Korg mumbled and finally let go of Thor, retrieving to the room with the other prisoners, presumably to check up on them.
"Where's Banner?" Thor frowned as he scanned the room.
"Here," he was lying in the ruins of a pillar, looking confused as ever. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure," Mae admitted. "I thought we were going to blow up or something, but apparently it took less time to get through the bridge than I had anticipated."
"Ah. Cool," he nodded and got up clumsily.
"You alright?" Mae asked, seeing him having trouble standing.
"Yeah, just a bit... dizzy," he hesitated. "But fine. What about you?"
"I already said that I'm good," she laughed.
"No you're not, you're bleeding," Loki noted, touching the back of her neck for a second. She turned her head to look at him and saw the tips of his fingers stained with blood.
"Dammit," she cursed under her breath and lifted her hand to touch the back of her head, suddenly remembering the dull pain there. "I hit it on one of those stupid pillars." She winced as her fingers came in contact with the wound.
"Do you need help?" Bruce offered. "I'm a doctor."
"No, it's alright, I'll just make it stop bleeding and I'll be fine," she waved it off and walked to the same cupboard where she found the screwdriver previously and found a clean looking cloth to press on the injury.
"You might have a concussion," Bruce insisted as she came back. "Or you could have broken your parietal bone."
"I'm not that fragile," she smirked. "I'm a Time Lady, we have stronger bones than you humans. I'll be fine."
"It looks terrible though," Loki continued. "You really sure you don't want me to take care of it?"
"How would you take care of it?" Bruce queried, a hint of disapproval in his voice. "You're not a doctor."
"I doubt we have the time to deal with minor injuries," Thor interrupted the debate. "We have a world to save."
"Right then," Mae nodded and walked over to the console. "Do you know the coordinates of Asgard?"
"Whatever, I can just ask the computer to do it, hang on," she ignored Thor's unsure stutter. She began typing Asgard on the console, taking way more time than she would if she could use both of her hands. After she was done, she pulled the lever once more.
"There we are," she noted as they approached the planet. "So, what's the plan?"
"Can you see where everyone is?" Thor asked. Mae nodded, pressing a few buttons on the side of the monitor.
"There seems to be quite a few people in the mountains, presumably hiding," she said as Thor walked over to her take a look. "And here," she pointed to the screen, "Is someone else coming for them."
"Alright then," Thor mumbled to himself. "Drop me off at the palace and I'll draw her away."
"And get yourself killed?" 142 frowned.
"The people trapped down there are all that matters," he explained. "While I'm dealing with Hela, I need you guys to help get everyone off Asgard."
"Sure thing," Bruce agreed. "Why am I here again?"
"You might be useful," Thor laid a hand on his shoulder. "Mae. To the palace."
It only took a few seconds to get there. She landed carefully in the gardens and waited for someone to do something while checking the screen constantly.
"Wait, hang on, they're moving," she said. "Leaving the mountains, heading down."
"They're probably heading for the Bifrost," Thor nodded. "Go there, get them on board. It's safer for them to use the ship rather than the bridge."
Mae agreed with him silently and watched as he walked out.
"Your Majesty," 142 stopped him. He turned to her with his eyebrow cocked. "Don't die."
He smiled and waved slightly, closing the door behind him.
"That's why you were acting so weird back then, isn't it?" Mae turned to 142. "When you were bandaging my hands and I told you about Loki for the first time."
She did not respond.
"Let's go then," Mae mumbled and took off, heading for the big rainbow bridge across the sea.
"Uh, Mae, this thing is blinking," Loki noted, pointing to one of the panels.
"What?" she walked over to him and saw a tiny red indicator light blinking slowly. She touched it, unsure, and the screen suddenly showed the bridge with all the Asgardians. They were heading towards what she presumed to be the Bifrost Thor spoke of. But at the end of the bridge, by the small golden dome, was a monstrous black wolf, waiting to attack them.
"Shit," Mae uttered. "What do we do?"
The people did not see the creature, it was hidden in the fog.
"Do we have a weapon?" 142 asked. "A gun?"
"I told you before, the TARDIS doesn't have weapons," Mae shook her head. "Does any of you have any tricks up their sleeves?"
"I don't have sleeves," 142 replied after a moment of silence.
The scene outside was getting worse each second. The people finally saw the wolf and attempted to go back, but were met with an army of dark figures which were glowing slightly green. The wolf started advancing towards the Asgardians.
Bruce seemed slightly out of place, fidgeting with his fingers and staring into the ground. Loki crossed his arms on his chest and stared at him long enough for the poor man to start shrinking in embarrassment.
"Go on, Bruce, say it," he encouraged him. "Or better, do it."
"Do what?" 142 frowned. Bruce did not reply, he walked over to the door and opened it, getting slapped in the face by the wind.
"I got this," his voice was barely audible. Then he took one terrifying leap out of the ship and fell out.
"Bruce!" Mae screamed and ran to the door. Loki grabbed her by the waist, protecting her from falling out as well.
"Wait, wait, look!" he told her, pointing down to the bridge. There was now a new actor on the stage, but it was not Bruce. Instead, she saw a green giant, strangely resembling the Hulk.
"That's why he felt so familiar!" 142 exclaimed. "Oh my fucking God."
"But... but how is that... how is he..." Mae stuttered, feeling as if her brain was an overheating computer that could not process the data.
"I don't know either," Loki assured her. They watched as the Hulk grabbed the wolf by the tail, throwing it off of the bridge along with himself.
"And now what? The army is still there!" 142 pointed out.
"That's when we come in," Loki explained. "Mae, change the appearance of the ship so it looks like an actual ship and lower it to the bridge."
She nodded, walked back to the console and pressed a few buttons. Then she turned the monitor to Loki. It now showed the outside of the ship.
"Much. Now for the other part," he smiled and went to the room with the Sakaarian prisoners. He spent a few seconds there, then returned with them on his tail. In the meantime, Mae lowered the ship to the level of the bridge. Without saying any other word, the prisoners walked out, fighting off the army, pushing them away from the crowd. Loki's clothes glimmered green and changed colour from blue-yellow to black-green and he suddenly had a big horned helmet on his head. As Mae looked at it closer, she noticed it was not a full helmet, more like a headband.
"What in the name of sanity have you got on your head?" 142 asked him.
"Shut up," he scolded her and walked to the door. He raised his arms as if trying to hug the crowd.
"Your saviour is here!" he cried out. Mae chuckled.
"You are a drama queen, aren't you?" she smirked, but he did not reply. He simply walked out the door and started beckoning the people to go inside. 142 pushed herself through them and headed outside as well.
"Wait, what about me?" Mae called after her.
"Stick around, help the injured, be useful!" and with that, 142 was off. And Mae was left with a ship full of strangers.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" she waved her arms above her head frantically. "Please head towards that room over there. Try not to get lost since this place is way too complicated for me to look for hundreds of people wandering around the corridors, thank you."
The people stared at her for a while, but then finally went to the room she was pointing to. She watched them as they hurried inside, some of them looking around curiously, but most of them simply staring in front of themselves.
God, I hope this works, she thought.
Suddenly, the whole place was illuminated with sharp light and a loud thunder roared. Mae winced, but instead of ducking, she gripped the console tightly and took a deep breath, not wanting to startle the Asgardians. She looked at the screen and saw Thor flying from the palace to the bridge, seemingly getting carried by lightning. She watched him fighting away the soldiers with Loki and 142 on his side. Hulk was nowhere to be seen, but she was sure he would make an appearance later.
"Miss! Miss!" someone called. "Miss! I can't find my mum and dad!"
She turned to see a small boy looking at her with wide eyes, his cheeks stained with tears. He looked like a tiny little angel, with his curly brown hair and bright grey eyes. She crouched next to him.
"When did you see them last? Were they with you on the bridge?" she asked him, laying her hand on his shoulder.
"I think so," he sniffed.
"In that case, there is a pretty high chance that you were simply faster than them and they are on their way here," she did her best to smile. "Why don't you go and sit over there while you wait for them? You can see the door perfectly from there."
"Thank you, miss," he sniffed and walked over to a chair she was pointing to. He sat down and began staring at the door intently, careful not to let anyone slip by him. After a moment, he apparently spotted a familiar figure and ran to her, hugging her tightly. The crowd was thinning out slowly.
"Mae!" she heard Thor's voice. "Go! Go, now! As far away from here as possible!"
"But what about you?" she yelled back when she ran to the door.
"We'll sort ourselves out, just get the people out of here!"
She nodded reluctantly and went back to the console. She did not want to leave completely, she wanted to stay close in case she could help somehow, so she just started flying upwards. Soon enough, however, the floor got pierced with something that resembled a large rock thorn. Mae let out a shriek, seeing a rather large group of Hela's soldiers climbing it up. She looked around desperately, but before she could do anything, a bald man walked out of the room where the Asgardians were, holding a large gun in each of his hands. He shot a few times, making the first fighters fall down and also the thorn crumble.
"For Asgard," he said, shooting more and then jumping out of the ship. She stared at the door with wide eyes, but snapped out of her trance quickly and made the ship fly faster. She watched helplessly as a giant emerged from the center of the palace, dragging a large sword behind it, setting everything on fire.
"Tremble before me, Asgard!" it yelled. "I am your reckoning!"
She noticed a small dot flying towards it, landing on its head, throwing it off balance for a second. The demon grabbed it and threw it back to the bridge. She realised it was the Hulk. Thor seemed to yell something at him and they bickered for a moment. He then grabbed both 142 and Thor, ran for a short distance and then jumped up, aiming for the ship. Mae gasped when she saw him actually landing at the door safely and throwing his two passengers towards the console. 142 steadied herself against it quite impressively, while Thor straight up fell onto his face.
"I don't want to do that ever again," 142 groaned.
"Agree," Thor replied as he pushed himself back to his feet. Mae noticed he was missing his right eye. But there was something else that was missing, way more important than Thor's eye.
"Wait, what about Loki?" Mae asked them, her hands trembling as she feared for the worst. "Where is he?"
"Right here," she heard him from behind. She turned around and found him standing there, grinning stupidly. She threw herself at him, squeezing him in a tight hug.
"Don't scare me like that ever again," she breathed. She felt him chuckle slightly as he wrapped his arms around her.
"You did a great job, Mae," he whispered, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "We couldn't have wished for a better pilot."
"Liar," she smirked, blushing.
Chapter 17: Sixteen
Thor was watching the screen intently. Mae turned there as well, witnessing one of the most horrifying things in her life. The demon, giant, or whatever that thing was, was waving its sword around, slowly destroying the whole place.
"The damage is not too bad," Korg, who suddenly appeared behind them, noted. "As long as the foundations are still strong, we can rebuild this place. It will become a haven for all peoples and aliens of the universe."
Mae smiled slightly, her arms still wrapped around Loki's waist. Before she could agree with Korg, however, the monster drove his sword into the center of the city. Nothing happened for a second, but then the whole planet was gone with one massive explosion. The shock wave threw the ship off balance slightly. Thor's face dropped.
"Now those foundations are gone," Korg mumbled. "Sorry."
"What have I done?" Thor whispered.
"You saved us from extinction," a man who Mae had not noticed earlier replied. He was standing in the door with all the people, supporting himself with a large sword. "Asgard is not a place. It's the people."
"Sir, do you need medical assistance? Your leg doesn't look good," Mae let go of Loki and walked over to him, inspecting a large open wound on his calf.
"Thank you," he nodded.
"Take a seat here, I'll take care of it," she told him gently and searched for a first aid kit. She found one underneath the console and immediately began treating the man.
"Can someone go and see whether there are others who need help?" Mae turned to the others. 142 nodded and walked past her, searching for injured people. Fortunately, there were not too many. After just a moment, Mae was left alone in the console room with Loki. The others went to either join the people, or to find a place to sleep. Mae made sure there was enough room for everybody.
"Mae," Loki said quietly. "I've done something really stupid."
"What?" Mae frowned, leaning against the console.
"You know how I told you about the Tesseract?" he asked. She nodded, suddenly sure she knew where this conversation was heading. He stretched his right hand in front of him, a small blue cube floating slightly above it.
"You idiot," she sighed. "Don't you think that that Thanos guy is able to trace the stones if he is so keen on getting them? Wouldn't it be safer to let it burn on Asgard?"
"Mae, he has been in my head for the past eight years, you have no idea what it's like," his voice was trembling. "You can't even imagine what he would do if he found out I let the Tesseract get destroyed."
He looked so broken, so vulnerable. With a small wave of his hand, the cube disappeared again. Before he could retract his hand, Mae reached out and grabbed it, lacing her fingers with his. He looked at her in confusion.
"It's okay," she whispered. "I already told you, if he wants to get to you, he has to go through me. I'd kick that wanker's sorry ass before he could even say the word Tesseract."
He smiled and squeezed her hand gently. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," she shook her head. After a moment of silence, she reached into her pocket with the other hand. "I want you to have this."
"What is it?" he frowned.
"One of the keys to this TARDIS," she explained. "In case something happened to me, this is to make sure she does not get into the wrong hands. Also, as long as at least one key is intact, she cannot be fully destroyed."
"Do you really trust me with something of such importance?" he ran his thumb along the cold metal of the key and the rough string tied to it.
"I thought we already established that I do," she chuckled. She then reached out to put it around his neck. "Keep it with you, okay? Promise."
"I promise," he smiled and hid it under his shirt. "But I don't think we're going to need it."
"How can you know?" she queried. "Anything can happen, the Time Lords can get to me, Daleks can appear out of anywhere, that Thanos guy can find us, there is a hella lot of things that can happen, Loki."
"I won't let anything happen to you," he insisted.
"Oh," she blushed and averted her gaze. "I think you should go and see your people. I can handle it from here, no worries. There is a jump point not too far away from here," she tried to change the subject.
"You sure?" he asked. "No more running around and panicking and things beeping and maybe exploding?"
Mae laughed upon hearing her own words from his mouth. "No more."
Loki nodded and gave her hand one more squeeze, then left. Mae let out a deep breath and began walking around the console slowly, dragging her fingers along the edges.
"So, you liked the adventure, buddy?" she smiled at the console. "I know it was quite... uh, wobbly, but we saved a lot of people."
The ship came to the jump point and went through it safely, automatically searching for another one.
"What do you think is going to happen now?" she wondered. "Do you think we're safe?"
A small huff sounded from within the insides of the ship.
"Me neither," she smirked bitterly. "Let's hope for the best, eh?"
"Do you really think it's a good idea to go back to Earth?" Loki asked anxiously as they watched the stars all around them.
"Yes, of course," Thor replied. "The people of Earth love me. I'm very popular."
Loki chuckled. "Let me rephrase that. Do you really think it's a good idea to bring me back to Earth?"
"Probably not, to be honest," Thor finally looked at him. "But I wouldn't worry, brother."
Loki gave him a questioning look.
"I feel like everything's gonna work out fine," said Thor. Loki took a breath to give him a sarcastic comment, but something outside caught his eye. A rather large ship was ascending right in front of them, most likely not randomly.
"We're in trouble," Loki turned on his heel and began running towards the console room. He barged in, breathless, almost stepping on his own cape.
"Yes, yes, I know, big ship, not very friendly looking," she nodded, frantically pressing buttons and moving levers.
"Change the appearance!" he told her.
"You know what, I would love to do that, pal," she replied. "But, you know that big thorn rock thingy that Hela sent to stop the ship from flying away? You would never guess what the one thing it broke was."
"The masking device."
"Of course the fucking masking device," she growled. "I'm trying to get us away, but-"
They felt a rather strong impact that shook the whole ship. Something on the console started beeping aggressively.
"For fuck's sake," Mae mumbled to herself, panic bubbling through her voice. "What do we do? What do we do?"
"Calm down, calm do-" he was interrupted by an explosion on the console.
"We're all going to die!" she yelled.
"No we're not, Mae, does this thing have an escape module?" Loki asked. They heard screaming from the room where all the Asgardians were.
"I have no fucking idea!" she retorted. "And I highly doubt it!"
There was another explosion.
"TARDISes don't have weapons, okay! We're just gonna fucking die-"
Loki pressed his hand over her mouth to silence her. "Listen to me, Mae. We are not going to die, alright? No one is going to die. Not you, not me, not anyone. And you know why?"
She shook her head.
"Because we are going to kick that wanker's sorry ass."
It would have been a fairly dramatic, almost romantic moment, had they not been sent face first to the ground by another explosion barely a second after Loki finished his sentence. The screaming from the room was getting louder and louder.
"Our top priority is to make sure the people are safe," said Loki after he helped Mae getting back up. "Is there any way they can hide so well here that he cannot get to them?"
"I can make the ship move the room to its center," she replied after a moment of hesitation. "The deeper they are, the less harm can be done to them. Barely any, in fact. The center is protected."
"Then what are you waiting for?" he raised his eyebrow. Mae nodded shortly and began manipulating with multiple panels on the console in hopes something would work. Before she could press that final button, however, Thor ran out of the room.
"We are under attack!" he yelled at her. "Why aren't you doing something? Fire back!"
"I cannot fire back, you moron, we don't have any weapons!" she snapped back. "I'm trying to move the room so it is not within the range of fire, so shut up before I mess it up!"
He stumbled in, almost knocking Loki over.
"Not now!" Mae snarled at him and hit the button with her palm. The door disappeared, but not before the man with the sword walked in too. Mae wanted to say a few words of disapproval about an injured man being in the most dangerous place on the ship, but she did not get the chance. Something hit the front of the TARDIS, blowing away the doors and one of the walls and sending them flying all over the room. Mae hit her head on a wall and she let out a groan. It was almost the exact same spot as before. She saw the sword man lying not too far away from her, not able to get back up. Loki and Thor were standing on different sides of the console and Hulk was nowhere to be seen.
"Hear me... and rejoice," a voice from the outside spoke slowly. "You have had the privilege of being saved by the Great Titan."
"Mae, hide," Loki whispered. She took a breath to argue with him, but he gave her a stern look; "Now."
She got up, squeezed his hand and went to hide in one of the corridors. She made sure she could still see the scene in the control room.
"You may think this is suffering," the voice continued. "No. It is salvation."
She could finally see the source of the words; a tall, pale figure with long fingers and no nose came floating into the ship, followed by a terrifying looking female with horn-like protrusions on her head, an elf-like creature and a being the size of the Hulk, only this one had illogically placed horns all over his body.
"The universal scales tip toward balance because of your sacrifice. Smile."
And behind them, entering dramatically, was a very tall purple man with the most hideous chin Mae has ever seen. He had a golden glove on his left hand.
"For even in death you have become Children of Thanos."
Mae looked at Loki; he looked horrified. His eyes were wide and even from far away, she could see his hands shaking.
The group stepped on board and Mae had to resist the urge to kick them off of her ship herself. She noticed that both Thor and Loki took a step back instinctively.
"I know what it's like to lose," the big purple man – most likely Thanos – began. "To feel so desperately that you're right, yet to fail nonetheless. As lightning turns legs to jelly," he walked over to Thor and grabbed him by the head. He tried to fight him, however, his grip was apparently too strong. "I ask you, to what end? Dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same. And now, it's here. Or should I say... I am."
Mae rolled her eyes. How long has he been preparing that speech?
"You talk too much," Thor growled.
"The Tesseract," Thanos turned to Loki. "Or, your brother's head."
Loki did not move.
"I assume you have a preference?" Thanos raised his nonexistent eyebrow.
"Oh, I do," Loki smirked bravely. "Kill away."
Mae gasped lightly and covered her mouth in fear of being discovered. Thanos gave him a surprised look, but began squeezing Thor's skull as if it was a walnut. Thor screamed, all the while Loki was looking Thanos dead in the eye. He averted his gaze only for a second to look at his brother, who seemed to be in agonising pain.
"All right, stop!" he snapped. Thanos smirked and stretched out his hand.
"We don't have the Tesseract," Thor managed to speak up. "It was destroyed on Asgard."
Loki sighed and raised his hand, the blue cube appearing in it once more. The look on his face was indescribable. His eyes were glassy, his head hanging low in defeat.
"You really are the worst, brother," Thor mumbled. Loki looked at him and took a deep breath, walking to Thanos slowly.
"I assure you, brother, the sun will shine on us again," he proclaimed with unexpected strength in his voice.
"Your optimism is misplaced, Asgardian," Thanos laughed dryly.
"Well, for one thing, I'm not Agardian," Loki shook his head. "And for another-"
"Enough," Mae walked from her hiding spot. All the heads turned to her, all except Thor, who was still held by Thanos.
"Mae," she could only see Loki's lips move, his voice was completely gone.
"If you want anything from Loki, you have to go through me first," she said firmly, walking up to him. Thanos let out a sound that could for the lack of a better word described as a chuckle.
"Why would the infamous professor Maiara try to protect a man like him? Or anyone else?" he asked. "Besides, he is literally handing it to me."
Loki made the Tesseract disappear again, but Mae was too busy trying to calm herself down to notice that. How did he know? How could he possibly know?
"How could I possibly not know, professor?" he wondered. "Everybody in the universe knows the story of Maiara, the one who murdered half of all Gallifrey's biggest brains."
"It was an accident," she whispered hopelessly. Long gone was the confidence she had gathered over the few minutes prior.
"I've always wanted to meet you," Thanos admitted. "You would have made a wonderful contribution to my children. Hit and run, that has always been an amazingly useful strategy. Tell me, professor, what is it that makes you believe this man should be protected?"
"He is all that I have left," she replied, maintaining eye contact. "I would rather die than lose the one last person that makes me feel worthy of life."
"As you wish."
A fraction of a second later, Mae felt a sharp piece of metal pierce her skin, then her spine, one of her hearts and the chest bone on the front side, coming out slightly. She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out. Instead, she tasted a hot, disgusting fluid on her tongue. Blood.
"Mae!" she heard Loki's voice from a distance as the object left her body and she fell to the ground. The whole universe seemed to have slowed down. In the corner of her eye, she saw a blurry green mass attack the big purple one in front of her, tackling it to the ground. Loki knelt next to her, pressing on her wound with one of his hands, the other supporting the back of her head.
"You silly Time Lady," he mumbled, his voice trembling. "Oh, you stupid, stupid, stupid girl."
As if in a dream, she heard noise from the direction where the two colour blobs were fighting. The familiar one roared and then there was silence. But then, there was another voice, not far away from them. Their words sounded like some sort of charm and then a light appeared in the sky, lifting her, Loki and the green blob from the ground and carrying them elsewhere.
Chapter 18: Seventeen
"Seriously?" The tall man with a goatee asked his companion as they walked down the main staircase. "You don't have any moneyI have ?"
"Attachment to the material is detachment from the spiritual," his friend explained.
"I'll tell the guys at the deli," the first man smirked. "Maybe they'll make you a metaphysical ham on rye."
"Wait, wait," the other one suddenly stopped, searching his pockets. "I think I have two hundred."
"Dollars?" the tall one cocked his eyebrow as he looked at him.
"Rupees," the short one shook his head.
"Uh, a buck and a half?"
"What do you want?"
"I wouldn't say no to a tuna melt," the short one grinned as they reached the door heading outside.
Before the first man could add any sarcastic comment, something hit the roof and a blur of limbs and heads landed behind them, destroying the staircase completely. The two men ran to the ruins, a large red cloak draping itself across the taller man's shoulders.
They saw three figures – a rather large green one, that seemed to be shrinking down and getting pale, one that seemed tiny compared to the first one, and a tall masculine one that was kneeling next to the second one. When they took a closer look, they also noticed that the second one, the smallest, had an ugly looking gash in the middle of her chest and was breathing heavily.
"Thanos is coming," the first man whispered. He was now the size and shape of an average human being. "He's coming."
The two men were too busy trying to figure out what to do to reply to him. They watched as the last person, who the man with the cloak finally recognised as Loki, Thor's brother, pressed his hand onto the woman's wound.
"It's okay, Mae, it's okay," they heard him mumble. The woman – Mae – was barely keeping herself awake. She had her gaze trained on Loki and was apparently trying to speak.
"Get... off... me," words finally came out of her mouth.
"But you're going to bleed out, Mae, I-"
"Go!" she growled. Loki shook his head and pressed harder in a desperate hope to save her.
"I am not letting you die," he whispered. "I can't-"
But before he could finish the sentence, he felt a strange, warm sensation under his hands. He looked down at them and frowned in confusion upon seeing her skin glowing with orange light. He looked back at her face and took a breath.
"GET UP!" she ordered. He finally did as he was told and took a step away from her. He noticed that the wound was now almost gone and it kept shrinking whilst still glowing. Her blood disappeared from his hands.
Mae felt adrenaline running through her veins. There was warmth spreading from the wound to her whole body slowly. Then there was something that she could for the lack of a better word describe as an explosion in both of her hearts. She threw her head back and screamed, feeling wonderful and strange at the same time.
She stretched her arms and legs like every morning when she was getting up from the bed. Only this time she was not waking up. She was staying awake. Every cell in her body was screaming in agony as it was transforming into a slightly different form.
And then it was over.
She was still lying in the ruins of the staircase, covered in dust, but there was no pain anymore. She sat up slowly, looking around. Then she noticed her arms – they looked strange; unfamiliar. And yet she was sure they were hers, because they moved like she wanted them to. She made her fingers move as if she were playing the piano.
"Mae...?" Loki called quietly.
"Yes?" she smiled and turned to him, her head spinning slightly. "Hello."
"What... what happened?" he asked, not quite able to wrap his head around the events of the past few seconds.
"I'm a Time Lady, remember?" she smirked and attempted to get up, failing. "I regenerated. I think. I look different, don't I?"
Loki offered her his hand and pulled her to her feet. "Uh... yes. Quite."
"Is it a good kind of different?" she wondered. There was no mirror she could see herself in.
"Definitely," Loki chuckled. "I mean, not that you didn't look good before, and you're still very pretty, but... different."
"Thanks, you're pretty too," she replied without thinking, a grin on her lips. "Oh goodness, my head!" she pressed her hands to her temples and shut her eyes, bending over slightly. It felt as if someone set off a fairly unpleasant firework inside her brain.
"Mae? Mae, are you alright?" Loki asked, concerned.
"Do I look like I'm alright? My brain is imploding!" she snapped.
"Is it?" the man with the cloak raised his eyebrow.
"Of course it isn't, it's a figure of speech, you gormless twat," she groaned. She stumbled over to the staircase and grabbed the railing with one hand, steadying herself against it as she took a few deep breaths.
"Let me ask you then. What. Is. Going. On?" the gormless twat turned to Loki. "What are you doing here? I thought I sent you off with your brother and he promised you'd never come back."
"Funny how things play out, isn't it?" Loki smirked.
"No, not really," he glared at Loki. "Are you going to explain yourself or do you want me to force you to?"
He pointed to Loki's forehead, his gaze hard.
"Asgard is gone," said Loki finally. "There was a dangerous creature, but we got rid of her. There is someone even worse on his way here and he is coming for this," he pointed at the man's necklace. "If that's what I think it is."
The sorcerer cocked his eyebrow. "How do you know?"
"Don't act like you don't know," Loki mumbled bitterly. "I know you looked into my mind the second you saw me. You would probably have me tied up by now if you didn't."
"Let me rephrase that then," he folded his arms on his chest. "Why should I trust you?"
"No, sir, you don't understand, we don't have time for this, Thanos is coming, the Earth is not safe," Bruce interfered. "We need to do something, we need help."
"From who exactly?"
"Tony Stark?" Bruce suggested nervously after a moment.
The sorcerer scoffed and rolled his eyes. "What good is he going to do?"
"I don't know anybody else," Bruce explained.
"What about Thor? Where is he?"
None of the men responded for a second, looking at each other and quietly trying to work out who should say something. It was Bruce who finally said "Gone."
The sorcerer took a breath to say something, probably to express his condolences, but before he could do so, everybody in the room was startled by a scream that emerged from Mae's throat as she fell to the ground. Loki rushed to her as she curled into a tight ball, breathing heavily.
"Alright then," he finally agreed. "We will go and find Stark. Loki, you stay here and take care of your friend. Do not go anywhere, is that clear?"
Loki nodded and helped Mae to sit up, giving her a small assuring smile. She did not look at him, keeping her eyes closed tightly.
"Why... have they never told us..." she began, concentrating very hard not to black out. "How painful it is? Fuck, that... that really hurts."
"Can I do something to help you?" Loki offered kindly. "Anything?"
"I don't think so," she shook her head and whimpered in pain as she did so. "Shit, if I knew it was gonna be this awful, I would have just... died on spot."
"Don't talk like that, Mae, it's just a headache," he dismissed the idea of her not being alive. "It's going to fade soon."
"I wish it was just a headache," she whispered, tears prickling her eyes. "It's killing me."
"Isn't it supposed to be keeping you alive?" he smirked lightly.
"Not the right time for jokes," she scolded him, took a shaky breath and finally looked at him. Everything looked way too bright, making her eyes hurt, but she was determined to keep them open. Loki and the whole world looked as if they were melting, turning solid shapes into nonsense colourful blobs. All of the colours seemed way more saturated than natural. The throbbing pain inside her head was getting more intense with each breath she took.
"I can't, I can't," she whispered, giving in to the pain and collapsing. Loki caught her just in time before her head could hit the hardwood floor and potentially cause even more harm to her. He made sure she was stable before he let go of her and waved his hand lightly, conjuring a tall glass of water.
"Come on, dear, it's alright," he put his free hand on her cheek and waited for her sight to focus on him. "Drink this."
"What is it?" she frowned lightly. Her voice was barely audible.
"Water," he replied and brought the glass to her lips, tilting it gently so he did not spill its contents on her. She drank slowly, feeling the cold liquid come in contact with her tongue where she could still taste her own blood even though it was long gone. As she gulped the water, she noticed the world slowly getting focused, shapes finally making sense and colours becoming bearable to look at.
When she finished the glass, Loki put it away and placed his other hand on her cheek as well.
"Better?" he asked.
"Much," she nodded. "Thanks. My head still hurts though."
"It will go away, don't worry," he smiled. He then wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, surprising her. "Please don't scare me like this ever again, Mae. By the Forefathers, I was so sure I'd lost you."
"Sorry about that," she chuckled nervously. "Uh... being strangled does not exactly help the headache."
He loosened his grip and she put her arms around him in return.
"I'm being serious, Mae, what were you thinking? He would have put you out with a single blow, how could you possibly think that it would be a good idea to face him on your own?"
"It was an instinct," she admitted. "I was scared he might hurt you."
"So you let him hurt you instead?" he smirked. "Besides, I had it completely under control."
"No you didn't."
"Okay, fine, I didn't, but you shouldn't have risked your life like that."
"It worked, so shut up."
Loki chuckled quietly and stroked her hair, still having a hard time believing that she was in his arms, alive and well. In pain, but otherwise alright. He let go of the hug and helped her to stand on her feet again, inspecting her whole figure. Her features were sharper; her nose was pointy and her lips were thinner. The colour of her hair did not seem to have changed, however, it was now shorter, reaching barely to her shoulders. Long gone was the cold green of her eyes, instead they were brown and warm.
"What are you staring at?" she queried, amused by the way he looked at her as if she was a peculiar animal in the ZOO. His cheeks were flushed with pink as he averted his gaze awkwardly.
"I- I'm sorry, I'm not exactly used to my friends dying and then changing completely," he stuttered. She laughed shortly and put a strand of her hair behind her ear since it kept falling to her eyes.
"Better get used to it," she mused, scratching the back of her neck. None of them said anything for a short while, then Loki took a deep breath.
"Mae, can I-"
Chapter 19: Eighteen
"Alright, what the fuck is going on here?" an unfamiliar voice asked. "Why is Reindeer Games here? Who is this? Why does it look like they're about to make out?"
They turned in the direction of the voice and found the cloak man, his friend, Bruce and a new person, a somewhat short man in his late forties looking at them.
"I think it is time for a proper introduction," the cloak man noted. "For those who don't know, my name is Doctor Stephen Strange. I assume that except for the lady here, you are all acquainted with each other?"
"That's one way to put it," said the new man, glaring at Loki. Then he turned to Mae. "Who are you?"
"I- I'm Mae," she extended her right hand awkwardly. "I'm, uh, Loki's friend?"
"How did you get here?" he asked, ignoring her gesture. Mae retracted her hand.
"Tony, please, we really have no time, can you just tell her your name so we can move on?" Bruce interrupted.
"Actually, can everyone tell me their names?" she suggested. "I know Loki and now I know Doctor Strange, but I have no idea who you are and also you, sir," she pointed to Strange's friend. "I have no bloody idea about what exactly is happening, so if someone could fill me in, that would be great."
No one said anything for a moment, then Strange's friend began: "At the dawn of the Universe, there was nothing. Then, boom!" a projection of six colourful gems appeared in the air. "The Big Band sends six elemental crystals, hurtling across the virgin Universe. These Infinity Stones each control an essential aspect of existence."
"Space," Strange said. The blue gem lit up slightly and Mae glanced over to Loki.
The red one did the same thing as the first one.
"And Time," he added, touching the necklace around his neck. It opened, revealing a green gem.
"No," Mae shook her head, folding her arms on her chest.
"Excuse me?" Strange looked at her with a cocked eyebrow.
"I said no," she repeated. "That is not how the universe was created."
"Mae," Loki touched her hand gently. "I already told you about this, remember? About the Stones. I showed you a Stone."
"But that's not... that just doesn't make sense!" she insisted. "The Universe being made up by sparkly crystals, that's bullshit. Time is a complex... irreversible... indefinite... fundamental..."
"You're just listing fancy adjectives right now," the man that was referred to as Tony smirked.
"It's hard to describe, alright!" she snapped at him.
"Aren't you supposed to be an expert when it comes to Time?" Loki chuckled.
"That's not how it works," she scolded him. "But saying that Time is-"
"You talked about the Key to Time," Loki interrupted her. "This is the Key to Time," he pointed towards Strange's necklace.
"But... but that's not..." she stuttered. "What about the Guardians of Time?"
"Who?" Strange frowned.
"The Guardians of Time," she said impatiently. "Masters of reality. Six powerful beings that each represent one aspect of the Universe."
"That sounds very similar to the Stones, don't you think?" Strange's friend pointed out.
"No, that- oh," she stopped herself mid sentence and covered her mouth with her hand.
"Oh. That- that makes sense, that... oh my God," she stuttered.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"The... The Key to Time. It's made up by six different... parts. What if all of us are both correct and wrong? Thanos would then be trying to put together the goddamn Key to Time," she explained.
"What are you even talking about?" the Tony guy frowned.
"Right, right, sorry," she took a deep breath and steadied her shaky hands that were gesturing wildly. "What you guys," she pointed at the men, "are calling Infinity Stones is what we," she pointed at herself, "call the Key to Time. Or the pieces of the Key to Time. The Key was a... artefact, you could say, that was used maintain the equilibrium of Time itself. It was split into six pieces. Each of the aforementioned Guardians was responsible for one of the pieces. I mean, unless I'm completely wrong. But it... it makes sense, doesn't it? The story is a tad bit different, but otherwise..."
"So what you're basically saying is that you understand what's going on," Strange interrupted her.
"Uh... I guess?" she looked at him, unsure.
"Even though that just two minutes ago, you were sure we're crazy," he continued.
"Yes," she nodded. Strange, his friend and Tony gave her a questioning look. Bruce just look confused and Loki seemed undecided.
"You have issues, woman," said Tony finally.
"Listen, I just died a few minutes ago and my brain is obviously trying to figure itself out, I might be slightly confused," she retorted. "But the point is, we all now understand each other, don't we?"
"I think we do," Strange nodded.
"I think I need a recap," said Tony. "What was that guy's name again? The one who's trying to... put that key thing together or whatever?"
"Thanos," Bruce replied, glad to finally be able to talk as well. "He's a plague, Tony. He invades planets. He takes what he wants. He wipes out half the population. He sent Loki."
Everybody turned to him as he tried his best not to exist. His eyes were glued to the floor, avoiding everyone, including Mae.
"What do you mean?" Tony frowned.
"The attack on New York," Bruce explained. "He was behind the whole thing, wasn't he? He sent you for the Tesseract."
Loki finally looked up, teary eyed.
"That monster has been in my head for eight years now," he whispered. "He ressurected me when I fell off the Bifrost. In exchange, he wanted me to bring him the Space Stone."
"Why should we believe you, hm?" Tony began walking towards him, fury in his eyes. "How do we know that you're not working for him still?"
"Leave him alone," Mae stepped between the two of them. "If he really was working for Thanos, do you really think he would be here right now? Standing here with you and trying to figure out what the hell should we do?"
"Could be a part of his plan," he shrugged. "Maybe he's just making idiots out of all of us. Including you."
"No he's not," she insisted.
"How do you know?"
"Tony, stop," Bruce put a hand on his shoulder. "While you're being paranoid here, Thanos is on the way."
"Paranoid? I'm being paranoid?" he spat at him. "This man destroyed half of this city, did you forget that? He threw me out of a window!"
"Because Thanos made me!" Loki snapped. "He was in my head, he still is! You have no idea what that's like!"
"Do I? Do I?" Tony fought back. "He's been in mine since the fucking attack!"
"Probably not making you murder people, has he?"
"Both of you, shut up!" Mae grabbed each of the men by the ears, pulling at them. "Stop trying to outdo one another and focus, alright?"
"Ow, ow, alright! Just- ow, Mae, seriously, that hurts, can you just-" Loki started.
"Not until you promise you'll stop yelling," she shook her head. He let out a sigh of defeat.
"I won't yell anymore," he said after a moment. Mae let go of his ear and he straightened his back, glaring at her.
"Now you," she told Tony as she ignored Loki. "Come on."
"Fine," he uttered. "I won't yell anymore."
"And will you stop accusing Loki of working for Thanos?" she asked.
"Yes, yes I will, for fuck's sake, just let go of me, woman!" he roared.
"You're yelling," she smirked and glanced at Loki. He chuckled quietly.
"Pretty please?" he lowered his voice.
"That's much better," Mae smiled and let go of him as well. "I'm not gonna make you shake hands, don't worry. Just don't be dicks to each other."
"He was the one who-" Loki started defending himself.
"Don't make me do that again," she sent him a warning look and reached for his head. He took a step away from her. The room fell silent for a short moment.
"Can we please continue figuring out what to do?" Bruce suggested after a few seconds.
"We have one Stone right here," Tony pointed to Strange's necklace. "Thanos is coming for it. Why don't we just stick it down the garbage disposal?"
"No can do," Strange shook his head.
"We swore an oath to protect the Time Stone with our lives," his friend added.
"And I swore off dairy, but then Ben & Jerry's named a flavour after me, so..." Tony shrugged.
"Stark Raving Hazelnuts," Strange's friend noted, his hands behind his back. There was a slight note of mockery in his voice.
"It's not bad," Tony glared at him as if he just insulted his mother.
"A bit chalky," he seemed to be explaining his disdain. "A Hunka-Hulka Burning Fudge is our favourite."
"That's a thing?" Bruce wondered.
"Whatever," Tony dismissed him. "Point is, things change."
"Our oath to protect the Time Stone cannot change," said Strange. "This Stone may the best chance we have against Thanos."
"Yeah, so, conversely, it may also be his best chance against us!" Tony groaned.
"Only if we don't do our jobs," Strange shook his head.
"What is your job exactly, besides making balloon animals?" Tony mocked him.
"Protecting your reality, douche bag," Strange hissed. Mae gave him a warning look, even though she was not exactly sure she should pull at his ears in particular. He did seem like a strong man. So did Loki, but that was different.
"Okay guys, can we, can we table this discussion right now?" Bruce stepped in again. He kept surprising them. "The fact is that we have this Stone. We know where it is. Loki has the Space Stone. Vision is out there somewhere with the Mind Stone and we have to find him."
"You have the Space Stone?" Strange turned to Loki. He nodded and waved his hand, showing them the glowing blue cube.
"So that's settled then," said Tony. "If we can't get rid of that one, we get rid of this one. I'm sure you can destroy it, right?"
"Uh, I don't mean to impose," Mae spoke up before Loki could even take a breath. "But won't destroying the Stones affect the Universe too? If they are the foundations somehow, then surely destroying them will have an impact on it. You can't blow up the foundations of a house without it crumbling down."
She looked at Strange expectantly.
"I'm not sure," he shook his head. "But I don't think so. They are not the foundations of the Universe, but they control the certain aspects, such as Time."
"So if you, say, destroy the Time Stone, you can't manipulate Time anymore?" Bruce asked.
"You can't manipulate it using the Stone," Mae corrected him. "There are other ways to work with it."
"Exactly," Strange nodded. "But we are not destroying the Time Stone."
"Yes, I know, we've established that," Mae agreed. "So yay. Let's go blow this sparkly thing up, shall we?"
"We still need to find Vision," Bruce noted. "He might be in danger.
"Yeah, that's the thing," Tony mumbled.
"What do you mean?" Bruce frowned.
"Two weeks ago, Vision turned off his transponder," Tony explained. "He's offline."
"What? Tony, you lost another super bot?"
"You know what this Vision thing is?" Mae whispered to Loki. "What are they talking about?"
"No idea," Loki shook his head. Before the discussion could carry on, they heard screaming coming from the outside. When they all looked to the doors, they saw blurry figures running away from something. Tony went to the door and opened it, letting even more noise inside. He walked outside, trying to push through the crowd.
"Wong, Doc!" they heard him call moments later. The two men looked at each other and ran out, Bruce following them.
Chapter 20: Nineteen
"Stay here, okay?" Loki turned to Mae. "I'll see what I can do to help."
"What?" she frowned. "No. No, I'm not staying here while people out there are in danger!"
"Mae, you've done enough today," he insisted. "I don't want anything happen to you. Again. You've already died once, that's far more than enough for one day, don't you think?"
"Mae. No. While you're arguing with me, there might be people who need help," he gave her a stern look.
"That's exactly why I want to go with you!" she fought back.
"What about your headache?" he asked.
"Headache my ass, I'm going out and helping people," she shoved him out of the way and ran out the door, looking for the source of the ruccuss. A moment later, she saw the noseless creature along with the one with the horns all over his body. They seemed to be watching something in front of them, which turned out to be Strange with his friend – most likely called Wong, Tony and Bruce. After a few seconds, Tony pushed Bruce behind him.
"Mae, get back here," she heard Loki whisper-yell at her as she hid behind a parked car. "They're going to kill you the second they realise it's you."
"Same thing with you, don't you think?" she replied in the same manner without looking at him. They watched as Tony fired something at the two creatures, only to have it backfire a moment later. Wong opened a portal and shoved Bruce through.
"Please, Mae, I really don't want you to get hurt any more," he begged her. "If you really want to help, head that way, that's where the people are, you can help the injured or something, but get out of those guys' reach!"
"Fine," she agreed finally. "But don't you dare get killed too, understand?"
"Don't worry," he smiled. "Now go."
"How many worlds does one have to save to get at least an hour to take a breath?" she smirked. Then she got on all four and crawled in the direction Loki pointed to.
Even though she could not see what was going on behind her, she heard everything. She tried distracting herself by doing her best to get people to safety, but she could not help but worry about them, Loki in particular. God knows what would have happened back on the ship had she not interfered, and she hated to think that now she was not there to stop anything.
She lost track of time. She did not even know where she was. She got quite far away from the starting point and she was getting worried if she could even find her way back when someone tapped her shoulder.
"Hey," it was Bruce. "You okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, what about you? What about the others? What about Loki?" she fired questions at him.
"I'm... I'm okay. Loki's okay too, don't worry," he nodded.
"And the others...?" she frowned.
Bruce stayed silent for a moment, then said: "Come on, we have things to do," and then he turned around, walking towards a car that she had not notice before. He opened the door for her and she got in, a look of suspicion on her face.
"You talk to me about wandering around," she heard someone snicker. She turned to the passenger's seat and found Loki.
"You're the one who sent me there," she mumbled and sat down. "What happened? Where are we going?"
"We," he sighed. "Are going to the Avengers' HQ."
"To who's what?" she frowned.
"The Avengers," Bruce, who sat down next to her, repeated. "Have you not heard...?"
"Allow me to remind you that I am not from around here," she smirked. "I've never been to Earth. I spend the past... what, sixty years? On Sakaar."
"Sixty years?" Bruce raised his eyebrows. "You don't look... I mean, I know that you just... regenerated or what did you call it, but you didn't look to be over sixty. Thirty at most."
"Bruce. Not. From. Around. Here," she told him slowly.
"But you look... human," he noted.
"No, you look Time Lord," she chuckled.
"Touché," he laughed shortly. Then the car fell silent. Mae watched the city slowly disappear, changing into a forest. After a while, she could see a white complex of buildings with a large letter A on the side.
"This is it?" Mae wondered. Bruce nodded wordlessly, admiring the house. They got off the car and walked through long corridors. There was no one anywhere.
"Doctor Banner!" someone called. The group stopped and turned around to see a tall, dark skinned man with some sort of harness on his legs.
"Rhodey!" Bruce greeted him and went to give him a hug. "How are you? What happened to your legs?"
"Long story," the man replied with a sad little smile. Then he turned to Mae and Loki, frowning. "What's this guy doing here?"
"No, he's okay, he's with us," Bruce told him quickly. "Long story."
"And that girl?" he pointed to Mae. "Who is she?"
"Very long story," she smirked. "I'm Mae," she offered him her hand and he, unlike Tony, shook it.
"James," he replied. "Why do you have blood on your shirt but no wound?"
"Oh," she laughed nervously. "I forgot about that. Do you maybe have something around here that I could change into?"
"Yeah, sure, I think Wanda might have something," he nodded. "It might be too big for you, but I think Nat would kill me if I let you in her room."
"It's fine, as long as it's clean," she smiled. "Shall I just go there or will you take me?"
"I don't want you to wander around here, you could get lost easily, I'll take you there," he replied. "Hang on, I'll just put these two in a sitting room somewhere."
She nodded and waited for him to leave with Loki and Bruce and then come back. "This way, ma'am."
He led her up some stairs and down a long corridor to an ordinary looking door. He opened it, revealing an average looking room. It was not heavily decorated, in fact, there were barely any decorations besides some photos that she did not want to look at too closely, felling like she would invade this girl's privacy more than she already was. James walked over to a closet and pulled out a long sleeved grey jumper.
"Does this look okay?" he asked her.
"Yes, perfect, thank you very much, I hope it's not too much of a trouble letting a complete stranger wear this girl's clothes," she rambled.
"Wanda is a very nice girl, she'll be fine once you explain yourself," he assured her.
"She's here in the bulding? Why didn't you tell her?" she frowned as she took the jumper from him.
"No, she's not," he shook his head. "I'll wait for you in the corridor so you can change."
"Thank you very much, James," she gave him another smile. He left the room and closed the door behind him. Without any further hesitation, she peeled off her old shirt that got stuck to her skin where the blood was and put on the sweater. She glanced at herself in the mirror and froze. She also happened to have forgotten that her looks changed. She was not one to stare at herself all the time, but still, she used to see her face quite often, at least twice a day, so she was used to it. This was a bit of a shock. She leaned closer to the mirror, almost touching it with her nose. Her skin was sprinkled lightly with freckles; something that she has never seen on her face before. She poked her cheeks as if she expected the tiny spots to fly away like a horrified swarm of gnats.
"This is weird," she mumbled to herself as she inspected herself. This was the first time for her to regenerate, she spent her entire life up to this point in her previous body.
"You okay there?" James called from the corridor.
"Yes, yes, everything's fine," she nodded and walked out, smiling at him. "Hey."
"So you're ready?" he cocked his eyebrows. When she nodded, he just began walking, leading her to a room where Bruce and Loki were waiting. They were sitting at a large desk, Bruce looking around curiously while Loki was just staring at his hands. Mae sat down next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you alright?" she wondered, concerned.
"I didn't even... have time to process everything that happened, it was all so fast," he looked at her, sadness in his eyes. "My home was just blown up. You got killed. And my brother... After we finally sorted things out, he... he..."
"C'mere," she whispered and pulled him in for a hug. Ignoring the fact that Bruce and James were still in the room, she wrapped her arms around him in a comforting manner. He sat still for a moment before he returned the hug shyly.
"I know, and I'm sorry that I caused a part of that pain," she said quietly. "I'll make it up to you. Let's go on an adventure after this, eh? Maybe even find a new home?"
He did not say anything, instead buried his face in her shoulder.
"Okay," they heard James say slowly. "Okay. You people will explain yourselves after the others get here. I have a call to make."
And he left the three of them sitting there in absolute silence, Mae still comforting Loki while Bruce was the one to pretend not to exist now. They heard James talking from the room next door. It sounded like quite a serious and important conversation, so they resolved in trying to ignore him.
"Feeling better now?" Mae asked Loki after she let go of him. "At least a tiny bit?"
"Definitely," he smiled faintly. "Thank you."
"Guys, if you don't mind me asking," Bruce spoke up awkwardly. "What... what exactly are you two?"
"Friends," Loki replied.
"Reading buddies," Mae corrected him with a grin. Loki chuckled.
"That's a more fitting description," he admitted.
"Oh," Bruce nodded. "Alright."
"What did you think?" she smirked and turned her whole body to face him, mostly to hide her blushing face from Loki.
"I wasn't really thinking anything, but you seem really close, so I was curious whether you're just very good friends or if you're a couple or something," he explained.
"Nah, we just kinda keep saving each other's asses," she laughed. As she took a breath to add something, they heard more voices coming from the room James was in. Bruce got up and walked to the door and watched what was going on.
"I think you look great," he told someone she could not see. "Yeah... I'm back."
"Hi, Bruce," someone, a woman, replied.
"Nat," he smiled.
"What do we do?" Mae turned to Loki.
"We should probably show ourselves now so they don't think we've been hiding from them," Loki suggested and got up.
"Good point," she agreed and followed him. "Do you want to go first?"
"Let's go together," he smiled and as she stood next to him, they walked through the door, seeing a group of new people. A short haired blond woman, a bearded man, a long haired ginger woman, a dark skinned man and a red man who was most likely not human.
"What's this one doing here?" the blond woman asked and pointed a knife at Loki's neck. "I thought you were dead."
"Unfortunately not, agent Romanoff," he smirked and pushed her hand away only for her to put the knife in the other and nearly press it against his skin.
"Nat, he's... he's with us," Bruce stuttered.
"He's what?" she turned to him. "Bullshit. Are you under mind control?"
"He is not," said Loki firmly. "I promise that I am being completely honest with you. Many things happened, but I doubt we have the time to catch up on that. I suggest we start working on getting rid of Thanos."
The woman – Nat – glared at him while the other three simply looked confused. Apart from the man with the beard, who also had some anger in his expression.
"And who are you?" the other woman, the ginger one, pointed at Mae. "Is that my sweater?"
"Yes, it is, if your name is Wanda," Mae blurted out. "I'm really really sorry, but my shirt was sort of... useless, and James was kind enough to let me borrow one of yours. I apologise deeply and I promise I'll return it to you once I get my hands on my own clothes again."
Wanda stared at her, eyes narrow, but after a moment, she nodded. "Okay."
"O-okay?" Mae stuttered. "That's it? You're not gonna be pissed?"
"I know you're telling the truth, why would I be angry?" she chuckled.
"How do you know I'm telling the truth?" Mae frowned. "Are you telepathic?"
"Yes," she nodded. "Also telekinetic and empathic."
"Oh," was the only thing that Mae could think of saying. "I'm Mae."
"How did you get here?" the man with the beard asked her, his arms folded on his chest.
"With Bruce and Loki," she pointed at them. "I-I flew the ship that... that..."
"That got everyone out of Asgard," Loki finished for her, seeing that she was not exacly sure how to do it herself. "Speaking of which, what happened to it?"
"Do you have the key?" she stretched out her hand.
"Yes, nothing happened to it as far as I'm concerned," he nodded, pulling at the string and showing her the small key.
"Good. I still have mine, so the ship is safe," she smiled. "And so are the people. What are you doing? Keep it," she closed his hand around the key when she saw him trying to take it off.
"I thought you wanted it back since you're safe now," he pointed out.
"You're so naive," she smirked and let go of his hand.
"What are you talking about?" the bearded man queried.
"Asgard is gone and thanks to Mae, almost all of our people are safe," Loki explained.
"Almost?" she gasped. "What do you mean almost? We left someone behind? You should have told me to wait, or asked me to do something, for fuck's sake! I thought we had everyone when you told me to leave!"
"Why is Asgard gone?" the man frowned, ignoring Mae's rambling. "And where's Thor?"
Loki and Bruce shared a look, then Bruce nodded slightly as a cue for Loki to tell the story.
And so he did.
He told a similar one that Mae hear earlier, only he started around the time Thanos recruited him. And he left out most of the pain and grief. Bruce jumped in from time to time to add something from his point of view, mostly when it came to their escape from Sakaar. They did not seem to trust Loki at all.
"So you're saying that New York was not your doing?" the bearded man, who Bruce called Steve, asked.
"Not exactly, yes," Loki nodded. "I know it does not sound exactly... credible, Captain, but you need to believe me. Frankly, you don't have any other choice."
"I've seen enough to know it's true," Bruce added. "This man, this Thanos, he is... he is a maniac, we have to stop him."
No one said anything for a moment.
"Alright then," Steve finally unfolded his arms. "How?"
Chapter 21: Twenty
"We have two stones here. We have the Tesseract, which I assume to be the Space Stone, and Vision here has the Mind stone. Thanos is not going to stop until he gets them all," said Bruce. "That leaves us with two options. Either we protect them with everything we have-"
"Or we destroy them," the red man, presmably Vision, added.
"Vis, no," Wanda looked at him sternly.
"I've been giving a good deal of thought to this entity in my head about its nature. But also, its composition," he gently touched the gem in his forehead, which Mae did not really pay any attention to until now. "I think if it were exposed to a sufficiently powerful energy source, something very similar to its own signature, perhaps... Its molecular integrity could fail."
"Do you think the same thing could apply to the Tesseract?" Loki wondered and made the cube appear in his hand. "Maybe, if used correctly, the Stones could be used to destroy one another."
"That is possible, yes," Vision nodded.
"No," Wanda spoke up again. "It would kill you."
"Maybe not," said Bruce. "His mind is made up of a complex construct of overlays. JARVIS, Ultron, Tony, me, the Stone. All of them mixed together. All of them learning from one another."
"So you're saying Vision isn't just the Stone?" Wanda frowned.
"I'm saying that if we take out the Stone, there's still a whole lot of Vision left," he corrected her. "Perhaps the best parts."
"Can we do that?" she seemed to finally agree on the plan. Everybody turned to Bruce.
"Not me," he shook his head. "Not here."
"Well, you better find someone and somewhere fast," James noted. "Ross isn't just gonna let you guys have your old rooms back."
"I know somewhere," the bearded man sighed.
"Then let's go!" Bruce urged. "Where is it?"
Without saying a word, the man walked out of the room, and the others followed him through the same empty corridors as they walked in through. They ended up in something that could be a hangar and headed towards one of the planes. The dark skinned man and the woman called Nat sat in the pilot seats and in a moment too short, the plane took off. Mae and Loki sat down on the ground, allowing the others to take the remaining few seats. The bearded man stayed in to front for a while, giving instructions to the man and Nat.
"Loki?" Mae whispered to him. "Do you know everyone's names?"
"Uh, no," he shook his head nervously. "The guy with the beard is Steve Rogers, but that's all I know."
"Alright," she mumbled. "Steve. Didn't you also call him Captain?"
"Yes, he is... they called him Captain America," he replied.
"Why?" she stifled a laugh. "That sounds ridiculous."
"All of them have weird nicknames, I suppose," he shrugged. "The one you met earlier, Stark, that's Iron Man. Agent Romanoff is called Black Widow. You know Hulk. One man calls himself Hawkeye. I heard something about a Spider-Man and I think there's also an Ant-Man."
"Okay then," she chuckled slightly. "Bruce?"
"What's that guy's name?" she pointed to the pilot.
"Oh, that's Sam Wilson," he replied. "Nice guy, I think. I don't really remember."
"Thanks," she smiled. "So now I know everyone. Kinda."
"Yeah, but we don't know you," James pointed out. He spoke loud enough for everyone to notice, and therefore they turned to her, including the two pilots.
"Oh, uh..." she stuttered, not expecting being the center of attention. "I'm M-Mae," she stuttered stupidly. Steve cocked his eyebrow.
"You already said that," he noted. "But who are you?"
"I flew the-"
"The ship that got everyone out of Asgard, yes. But that doesn't really say much," he interrupted her.
"I know, but... I don't really know what to say, because even the smallest thing would require tons of explaining," she averted her gaze. "Like, does any of you know what a Time Lord is?"
Silence. Loki raised his hand slowly.
"Apart from you," she smirked.
"The thing that I am really curious about is what relationship do you two have," Wanda pointed at her and Loki. "And how did it happen."
"We're friends," Mae said rapidly. "Reading buddies. And I think Loki already told you guys how we met, so..."
"Right," Steve chuckled. "So you just randomly bumped into each other."
"Basically," she shrugged. "Let me tell you, I was pissed when my boss told me I had to live with him."
"Really?" Wanda laughed. Loki glared at Mae, but broke into laughter too.
"You have no idea," he smirked. "She spent the first few days completely ignoring me."
They resolved in telling small stories from the time they spent together on Sakaar. It sounded as if they knew each other for months, if not years, while it had actually been mere weeks. The tension among the rest of the group eased up slightly as they talked. It surprised Mae quite a bit – she knew the story and thought they would not be able to trust Loki at all. But apparently, in times like this, past wrongdoings were shoved aside.
In a few hours, Sam announced from the front: "We're nearing Wakanda. Where should we land?"
Steve turned to the front and looked outside. "Drop to 2 600. Heading 030."
"I hope you're right about this," Sam shook his head in disapproval. "Or we're gonna land a lot faster then you want to."
Mae looked out of the window to see the plane speeding towards a forest. She took a breath to protest, but before she could form a sentence, the trees disappeared, as if they flew through them. She now saw a beautiful city surrounded by a vast mountain range. It was magnificent.
The plane landed smoothly and Steve led them out. There was a man dressed in black clothes and behind him was a group of women in red. Mae noticed that all of them had their heads shaved. Steve went to shake the man's hand, Nat by his side.
"Should we bow?" Bruce asked James.
"Yeah, he's a king," he replied as if it were completely obvious. When they reached the man, Bruce bent over slightly in a small bow. Mae did the same thing nervously, while Loki stood beside her, looking uncertain.
"We don't do that here," the man shook his head. Mae straightened her back again and a blush crept onto her cheeks. From the corner of her eye, she could see James hiding a giggle. She glared at him, but he ignored her. Steve kept talking to the man while she looked around.
"This place is beautiful," she breathed as she spun around, trying to see everything at once. The sky was clear, with no traces of wormholes or garbage flying around. The sun was shining brightly, warming her. But not like on Sakaar, when it made her feel as if she was about to catch on fire while she was suffocating on the toxic air. Here the air was fresh, making her fall in love with breathing.
"Indeed," Loki agreed with a smile. "Dazzling, I would say."
"Yeah..." she was not really paying attention to him, she was busy marvelling at the beauty surrounding her.
"I see you are not familiar with Wakanda," the man, the king, noted, with a hint of a smile on his lips. She turned to him and nodded shyly.
"Not really," she told him. "Or anything on this planet, while we're at it."
"And I suppose neither is your friend?" he looked at Loki. He was the first person not to frown upon seeing him. Loki shook his head.
"Well then, maybe if we're lucky, we'll be able to show you around," the king smiled. "But for starters, my name is T'Challa Udaku, and I have the privilege of ruling over this beautiful country."
He offered them his hand and both of them shook it, introducing themselves as well.
"And this is Okoye, general of the Dora Milaje," he continued and gestured towards one of the bald women. She did not shake their hands.
"But I believe we have work to do, so I suggest we get to it."
Chapter 22: Twenty One
T'Challa led them through the marvellous city to an even more magnificent palace.
"This is so... I mean... If you look at Sakaar, this is just... I don't think I've ever been anywhere as beautiful as this," Mae stuttered. "Look at this place!"
Loki smiled as he watched her admiration. For a moment, she did not care about the danger that was lying ahead of them, or what they went through to get here, for a short while, she was only living in the moment, charmed by the grace surrounding her. He noticed how T'Challa smirked upon hearing her words.
"What about your home planet?" Bruce wondered. Mae's smile faded from her face and the spark from her eyes vanished too.
"I don't like thinking about it," she mumbled.
"Why not?" he frowned.
"I just don't," she shook her head. Loki glared at him and shook his head in a you bloody idiot manner, and grabbed Mae's hand, squeezing it in assurance.
"Sorry," Bruce muttered. Mae smiled slightly, resuming in looking around less enthusiastically this time.
After a while, they seemed to have reached their destination. It sort of resembled a lab. Behind one of the desks sat very young girl.
"This is Shuri," said T'Challa. "She is the head of our scientific research here. And my younger sister."
"Brother, who is this?" the girl frowned.
"Do you ever listen to me?" T'Challa rolled his eyes. "These are the Avengers. Or, some of them."
"Isn't this the guy who-" she started.
"Yes, it is him," he interrupted her. "But he is here to help too."
"And this girl?" she pointed to Mae. "I've never heard about her."
"That's my very good friend Mae," Loki introduced her. "She is also a scientist."
Shuri made a face full of mockery. "Yeah, sure."
"Shuri, our friends here need your help," T'Challa noted.
"Of course they do," she smirked. "What is it?"
Steve and Bruce took turns in explaining the problem. The young scientist listened to them intently with her arms folded on her chest. Then she gestured for them to follow her, leading them to another room, this time smaller. She told Vision to lie on an examination table. In a short moment, a hologram of what seemed to be the Stone connected to his brain appeared.
"The structure is polymorphic," Shuri noted.
"Right," Bruce nodded. "We, uh, we had to attach each neuron non-sequentially."
"Why didn't you just reprogram the synapses to work collectively?" she raised her eyebrows. Even Vision gave Bruce a questioning look.
"B-because," he stuttered. "We didn't think of it?"
"I'm sure you did your best," Shuri smiled sympathetically.
"Can you do it?" T'Challa asked his sister. "Can you get the Stone out?"
"Yes, but there are more than two trillion neurons here," she shook her head nonconfidently. "It will take time, brother."
"As long as you can give me."
T'Challa nodded. "We need a plan. Tell me again, this Thanos, what Stones does he have already?"
"He had the Power Stone when he attacked us," Loki replied. "Only that. He did not get the Space Stone, which means that he can't travel as fast as he would like. He will have to use the ship of his to get to places. It might be a big ship, but not very fast. I think that the Space Stone is his priority now."
"So he's on the way here?" Nat frowned.
"Presumably," Loki said. "Where were we when we were attacked, Mae?"
"I guess around... twenty-ish jump points out of Asgard?" she thought for a moment.
"Which means?" Loki questioned.
"Uh... at least forty more jump points from Earth, I guess," she scratched the back of her neck nervously. The others looked at her, not entirely sure what to make of that. She sighed. "Do you have a board here that I can write on?" she turned to Shuri. She nodded and left for a moment, then came back, pushing a large glass writing board in front of her. It was covered in writing, but she pressed a button on the side and it vanished. Then she handed Mae a pen. It was strangely light, but Mae ignored it and stepped to the board.
"Okay, so, this is the Earth," she explained as she drew a small circle on the left side of the table. "And this," she added as she drew another one on the right side, "Is Asgard. As you can see, it's pretty far away from here."
She turned back to the group to check if they understood. She found a holographic projection of what she drew on the board was now hanging in the air. She decided to add little descriptions. As she wrote the word Earth and drew an arrow pointing to the first circle, the holographc projection of it changed into a tiny version of the planet. She gave Shuri an impressed look and she just smiled. When she added Asgard and an arrow to the other circle, it did not change.
"We don't really know anything about Asgard, so it's not in our database," Shuri explained. Mae nodded.
"We were about this," she drew a small x about one third of the way from the Asgard circle. "Far away from Asgard."
"You could just say you were one third of the way through," Steve noted.
"No, I could not, because," she added another, bigger x. "Of Thanos' ship."
"What about it?" Loki frowned.
"It's too big to be able to travel through jump points," Mae explained. "Therefore it's going to take him ages to get here. Unless he finds a way to travel through Hyperspace."
"You're not making any sense," Steve pointed out. Mae sighed.
"Okay then, let me go a bit slower now," she mumbled to herself. "There are three ways of travelling through space. Well, four, but the Time Vortex does not apply to this situation. First one is called the Hyperspace, which is what you would go for with a TARDIS if you weren't time travelling, but I'm too scared to do that, even though it is the fastest way to go anywhere. Through the Hyperspace, we would get from Asgard to Earth in a manner of... seconds, two minutes at most. Good?"
There was a quiet hum of agreement.
"Great. But because Hyperspace travelling is pretty hard – you have to achieve the speed of light to do that – there is another way, and that's called jump points. They are basically shortcuts from one point in the universe to another one. Kind of like portals. That's what we went with."
The group nodded.
"And then there's the third way, which is the slowest. It's the old fashioned flying with no cheating. That's what big ships usually do if they do not dispose of Hyperdrive. And they usually don't."
"So what you're saying is-" Shuri began.
"We have a plenty of time to figure out what to do," she nodded. "Even if he went directly here, it's going to take him a lot of time."
"Okay, but," Loki spoke up. "Assuming he is on the way to Earth, which he most likely is, there is a chance that he stops by on Knowhere, which is around," he took the pen from Mae's hand and drew another circle between the first two. It was closer to Asgard than it was to Earth, and it was slightly lower. He turned to the holographic projection and reached out as if to grab the circle he just drew. It lit up slightly and he pushed it forward, so the planets were not aligned anymore. "Here."
"So?" Mae cocked her eyebrow. "What's Knowhere and why would he go there?"
"That's where the Reality Stone is kept," he explained.
"So?" she repeated.
"If he gets the Reality Stone, he can shape reality. He can make it so the Earth is just a five minute walk from him," he said.
"Well, but we can't do anything about that, can we?" Nat pointed out. "What about the other Stones?"
"The Time Stone is probably on its way to Titan, Thanos' home planet, which is around here," said Loki slowly and drew one more circle, pushing it even further than the Knowhere one. "As for the Soul, nobody knows. There is a bunch of legends, one of them being of Helheim, which is the realm of the dead, but it's just a story."
"Wait, why is it on the way to Titan? Didn't that wizard guy have it?" Mae frowned. "Hang on a second. You guys never told me what happened to him and the other two."
Bruce and Loki exchanged looks, then they both turned to her. "Thanos basically kidnapped Strange and Tony went after him," Bruce told her.
"He- That was the ruccus outside? How did he get here so quick?"
"Not Thanos himself, two of his Children," Loki shook his head. "They had a Q-ship."
"But why didn't he do it himself?" Bruce wondered. "If he could get here and get the Space Stone, why did he send the two for the Time Stone instead?"
"Maybe the Space Stone isn't a priority after all," Loki proposed. "I assume he went after the Soul or Reality instead."
"What about those two he sent after us?" Wanda suddenly spoke up. "A scary alien woman and a... guy. They were after the Mind Stone, that's for sure."
"Wait wait wait wait wait," Mae waved her hands frantically. "So there were two who are after the Time Stone and now are on the way to Titan. I caught that. And two more who are after you and the Mind Stone and who are on this planet right now? Shouldn't you have mentioned it earlier?"
"You didn't give me a chance," Wanda mumbled. "You kept going about Hypersomething and jumping through space."
"You should have interrupted me, they might be on the way now!" Mae groaned. "Okay, so scratch everything I said up until now. We don't have plenty of time like I thought earlier. Someone's on the way and we need to make a move."
"Speaking of which," said the bald woman called Okoye, who was standing on the side, looking at them with disapproval in her eyes. "Something's just entered the atmosphere."
She touched her bracelet and a red hologram appeared. Everybody turned to the windows and looked out. They saw a large circular vessels flying above them, but as they were nearing the city, it seemed as if they hit an invisible barrier and started exploding.
"There are more incoming outside the dome," Okoye interrupted Mae.
"We need to destroy the Stone now," Vision sat up.
"Get your ass back on the table," Nat glared at him.
"We will hold them off," Steve agreed. "Loki, you can use the Tesseract to destroy the Stone, right?"
"I hope so," he nodded.
"Then you stay here. As soon as it's out of his head, you blow it to hell," Steve instructed him.
"I will," he said.
"Evacuate the city," T'Challa told Okoye. "Engage all defenses. And get this man a shield!"
Everybody started moving, only Vision stayed on his table with Shuri by his side, Mae standing awkwardly next to the board and Loki beside her. Soon enough, they were the only ones in the room.
"Right then, I guess I better get to work," Shuri mumbled to herself and walked to a panel, where she pressed a few buttons and a strange looking machine slowly emerged from the ground. She wheeled it to Vision's table and began setting it up. He lied still.
"Can I help you somehow?" Mae offered. "If two of us work on it, it will be faster."
"That's true," Shuri nodded. "But I don't think you can. It will be better if both of you stay on guard just in case. Your name was..."
"Mae," she finished for her. "Short for Maiara."
Shuri nodded and continued her work. Mae walked over to the window and looked outside, watching as a small army of Wakandans formed on the fields. She could also see the enemies lining up around the borders. She rested against the wall and folded her arms on her chest.
"You never told me that," Loki noted, joining her. "Your full name," he added when she gave him a confused look.
"Well, I never gave you my name in the first place, so..." she smirked. Loki laughed shortly.
"Right," he grinned. "Did I ever apologise for that?"
"I don't think so, no," she shook her head, smiling. "You don't have to though."
"I feel like I should," he insisted. "So I apologise for... going into your ship without a permission and for violating your privacy."
Mae chuckled. "You know I completely forgot about it? It feels like it happened in another life."
"Well, you did regenerate, so it sort of makes sense," Loki pointed out.
"That's not what I meant," she shook her head. "So much happened since that. We ran away, flew through the Anus, saved your people... got assaulted by Thanos... and now we're here. Sure, we were back on Sakaar just a few hours ago, if you think about it, but it feels like a thousand years passed since we were reading Saturnin together."
"We left the book there," he noted, a hint of remorse in his voice. "On the bedside table."
"Dammit," she sighed. "Well, that's one more reason for us to go and find the ship."
"What's gonna happen to the people?" Loki wondered.
"Oh, don't worry about them," Mae smiled. "The TARDIS will take care of them. She can provide them with everything they need. Or even better, she can put them into stasis, which will make them think we've been gone for no more than five minutes by the time we get to them. Either way, they're gonna be fine."
"That's good to hear," he nodded. None of them said anything for a while and they just watched as the enemies tried to barge through the barricade. After a moment, they stopped and began running along it.
"On my signal, open northwest section 17," they heard T'Challa's voice from a speaker. Shuri must have put the comms on a louder setting. Loki and Mae turned to her curiously.
"Requesting confirmation, my King," Shuri frowned. "You said open the barrier?"
"On my signal," T'Challa replied. Nothing happened for a minute, then; "Now!"
They looked outside again to see a small section of the energy field surrounding the city and the fields disappear and the creatures from the inside started running in.
"How much longer, Shuri?" T'Challa requested.
"I've barely begun, brother," she said, her eyes fixed on the machine she was working with.
"Are you sure we can't help you?" Mae suggested. "If there's anything, just-"
"No, just stay back and watch what's going on out there, okay?" Shuri did not let her finish.
"Okay then," Mae mumbled and walked back to the window, resuming to watch the battle outside. It was definitely not looking good. But there was still a chance that wherever Strange and the Tony guy were, they could stop Thanos somehow.
"Mae, can I ask you something?" Loki spoke up after a while. She looked at him curiously.
"Sure, go ahead," she nodded.
"Did you... mean those words?" he queried.
"What words? I said a lot of words today," she chuckled nervously, although she was sure she knew where he was going.
"You know what words," he smirked slightly. "The ones you said to Thanos."
"Oh. Those words," she blushed and scratched the back of her neck, then folded her arms again, nervously scratching her upper arms. She avoided eye contact. "I, uh... yes. I meant them. I lost completely everything, I can't lose the one last person who actually gives a shit and trusts me and is willing to help me when I'm in a desperate situation. I give a shit too. And I know that I can trust you with anything."
"How?" he wondered. Mae smiled slightly and finally looked at him again.
"You know, most of the time you need a lifetime to know you can trust someone," she began slowly. "But sometimes, on the rarest occassions, all you need is a few weeks, a big library and a scary thunderstorm to know that you want the person beside you to stay there for as long as possible," she spoke quietly, her every word thought through just so she would not come across as weird.
Loki remained silent, letting it sink in. Mae suddenly became unsure of what he might think of her.
"Or... or not, maybe, b-because the other one doesn't want to and that's completely understandable since it's only been such a short time and th-"
She was not able to finish her sentence as Loki stepped closer to her, put his hands on her cheeks and leaned in, closing the space between them in a tender kiss. Mae's head was spinning around and her hearts were beating at an alarming pace as she stood in her spot, frozen, with no idea what to do with her hands or any other body part. She closed her eyes as one of Loki's hands travelled to the back of her head slowly, his fingers running through her hair.
"Ew!" they heard Shuri complain, disgust lacing her voice. "This is a lab, for god's sake, not a bedroom, people!"
Mae blushed as Loki broke the kiss and looked her deep in the eyes.
"S-sorry," she stuttered and looked at Shuri, who was grinning mischievously.
"I'm just kidding, you're adorable," she laughed. "But you're distracting me."
Mae turned her gaze back to Loki who was smiling at her, his eyes scanning her face curiously. She took a breath to say something, but she could not think of anything sensible.
"I've been longing to kiss you since the first day in the library," he whispered.
"H-have you?" she asked, her voice trembling. He nodded slightly. Finding herself at a loss of words, she stood on her tip toes and kissed him, laying her hands on his waist.
"I thought we established that it's better to stick with imagining things," he grinned.
"You really need to stop quoting me," she laughed quietly. "It's weird."
"I think Captain Rogers now owes miss Romanoff a hundred dollars," Vision noted.
This chapter is hands down my favourite. Look at them!
Chapter 24: Twenty Three
The tension in the lab seemed to have loosened significantly after Vision's dry remark. Shuri had the tiniest hint of a smile on her lips as she worked on getting the Stone out of the android's head while Loki and Mae stood by the window and watched the battle outside intently, stealing glances from one another every once in a while. Mae's cheeks still felt warm and she was slightly dizzy. She tried to hide her shaking hands by folding her arms on her chest, but she was sure it was still visible.
"What shall we do after this mess is over?" Loki asked quietly after a while.
"Definitely not go back to Sakaar," Mae smirked. "I am not setting my foot to that dumpster ever again."
"Of course you're not," he chuckled. "So where will we go?"
"After we find the ship... and find a new home for your people... we'll be completely free," she spoke slowly as if she were realising it just now. "We'll have all of time and all of space at the tips of our fingers. We can go anywhere and anytime."
"So we're just gonna fly around the universe and have fun?" Loki cocked one of his eyebrows.
"If you'd like," Mae shrugged.
"Don't you think we could go back in time and-"
"No," she did not even allow him to finish his sentence. "This whole situation is a fixed point in time and trying to change it by going back and, perhaps, killing Thanos when he was young could resolve in the whole universe blowing up."
Loki looked at her pleadingly. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," she nodded. "I'm sorry, I wish I could change it too, but the outcome would be way worse than what we're facing right now."
"But maybe we could... go back just a little bit and save Thor?" he suggested. "Just after we left. We don't know what happened there, maybe we could do something about it."
"I suppose we could do that," she agreed after a moment of hesitation. "Alright. We'll go save Thor. And then? After the whole ordeal is behind us? I mean, it was your idea to run away from Sakaar, did you have a plan?"
"We should finish reading that book," he stated. "I can't stand having an unfinished book."
"Of course you do," Mae snickered. "So we find the TARDIS, find a new home for the Asgardians, save Thor and finish Saturnin."
"We should write it down so we don't mix it up," Loki chuckled. Mae took a breath to add something, but before she could speak, she heard a scream from outside of the room. They exchanged a look and ran to the door, peeking out carefully. There was one of the Thanos' group, the Children, who somehow got inside the palace and was now approaching the lab. It was the tall, elf-like one, with horrifying red eyes.
"What do we do?" Mae whispered, her eyes wide with fear.
"We can't let him in," Loki replied and then just disappeared. His entire body glimmered green and he was gone.
"Stay here," his voice said quietly near her ear. She flinched when an invisible hand squeezed her shoulder and then vanished. She looked out to the corridor again and watched the scene as it unravelled itself in front of her eyes. The elf's left arm was suddenly twisted behind his back and he let out a gasp. He looked around in confusion, but before he could do anything, a knife plunged itself into his throat. His eyes bawled out as it got out again, blood running down his neck. Soon enough, he fell to the ground, breathing heavily. He tried to say something, but the small dagger appeared once again, stabbing him where his heart probably was. A moment later, Loki was standing right next to Mae again.
"Did... did I just witness you..." Mae stuttered, not exactly sure what she was trying to say.
"Technically, you didn't," he smirked. Mae chuckled shakily.
"You okay there?" Shuri asked them without turning her head. She kept working on getting the Stone out.
"Yeah... I think," Mae mumbled. Loki laughed and led her back to the window, where they resumed in watching the battle.
"I'm nearly there!" Shuri exclaimed. "It's almost out!"
"Yay!" Mae smiled and walked to her, watching as she cut the few last remaining synapses.
"Only one more left. Feel any different yet?" Shuri asked Vision.
"No, not really," he replied. Shuri nodded and cut the last one. Vision closed his eyes for a brief moment and let out a shaky breath.
"You okay?" Mae asked. He nodded and Shuri reached for the Stone.
"Don't!" Loki stopped her. "Don't touch it."
"What? Why not?" she frowned, her hand hovering mere centimeters above Vision's forehead.
"You're only a mortal," he explained. "It would tear you apart."
"Excuse me?" she put her hands on her hips. "Didn't these only mortals kick your ass six years ago?"
"I didn't mean it like that," he shook his head quickly. "I meant that unless you have magical abilities or superpowers, you are not strong enough to wield the Stone. No, that sounds even worse. I just don't want you to get killed, that is all."
"And you can handle it or what?" Shuri cocked her eyebrow.
"I handled the Space Stone, I think the Mind will not be that different," he smiled. Shuri kept looking at him with an unsure look on her face, so he added: "Trust me."
"But what if you can't?" Mae spoke up. "What if it's different than the Tesseract? What if it tears you apart? I-"
"Heaven's sake," Vision mumbled, sat up and grabbed the Stone himself. "We would be here until Christmas before you made your minds up."
The three looked at each other for a moment, then back at Vision. Without words, Loki pulled out the Tesseract and held it in his palm firmly. "So... now what?"
"I suppose we hold them against each other and try our best?" Vision suggested.
"Sounds like a plan," Loki smirked.
"Wait, not here," Shuri held her hands up. "There is a secluded lab that will be safer for that."
Mae pulled Vision to his feet and they walked a few floors below where they found a small room with a one way mirror. It was completely empty.
"Get there, we'll stay here," Shuri instructed them and opened the door for them. Both of the men nodded and walked into the tiny room, standing on the opposite sides. Mae watched anxiously as Shuri closed the door again, leaving them alone with two parts of the universe. Her hearts were beating hard and fast as they positioned themselves, stretching their arms out and pointing the two Stones at each other.
"Ready?" Loki asked. Vision nodded. Both of them seemed to be concentrating very hard for a moment before both of the Stones lit up and began emiting some sort of rays. First they shone all over the place, but after a few seconds, they started aiming at one another. They clashed halfway, creating a very bright white light that made Mae squint and turn away.
"Fascinating," Shuri mumbled.
"Do you think it's going to work?" Mae asked her worriedly.
"How would I know?" Shuri chuckled. "Oh. You just need... assurance."
Mae gulped and nodded.
"He'll be fine," she smiled. Mae returned her smile weakly and turned her gaze back to the room, even though it hurt her eyes. Maybe she was imagining it, but looked like the Tesseract was now cracking. She did not see anything on the Mind Stone, it was too small. Both Loki's and Vision's faces were contorted with what could not have been anything but pain. Mae put her hands on the glass and breathed deeply, a small cloud of steam fogging her vision as it condensend on the window. The light was getting more and more intense, blinding her again and despite trying her best to watch how it goes, she had to close her eyes. After a while, she heard two small explosions and the light was gone.
The shockwave caused the glass in front of Mae to shatter and she screamed in pain as a few shards impaled themselves into her skin. She opened her eyes and upon realising the others were alright, she let out a sigh of relief. As she moved her arms to try and get some of the shards out of her face, she hissed.
"Oh my God, are you alright?" Shuri walked over to her. "Crap, I'm so sorry, I really didn't expect that. That glass is supposed to withstand anything."
"No, it's – ow – it's alright," Mae waved her hand dismissively, causing sharp pain to shoot through it. She noticed how aggressively it was shaking.
"Sit down here, I'll fetch a first aid kit," Shuri told her.
"No, really – ow – you don't – ow – have to," Mae insisted. "Just help me get the – ow – glass out and I'll be – ow – fine."
"How on Earth would you be fine just like that?" Shuri frowned as she forced her to sit down on a chair that happened to be close by. "You two, get here," she told Vision and Loki. "I'll go get a first aid kit, you just... do something."
Loki rushed to Mae's side, worries plastered on his face. "Does it hurt?" he carefully touched her cheek with the back of his hand, avoiding the cuts.
"Quite," Mae smirked. "But really – ow – I'll be fine. I'm still within the – ow – first fifteen hours after my – ow – regeneration and – ow – I have enough residual cellular – ow – energy to have the wounds – ow – heal by themselves. Ow."
"Anything we can do?" Loki suggested, putting a strand of hair behind her ear and smiling at her reassuringly.
"Just get the goddamn glass – ow – out," she hissed as she tried to do it herself again. "At least it didn't – ow – get into my eyes."
Loki knelt in front of her and started picking the bigger pieces out. Mae tried not to flinch every time he touched a wound, but she could not really help it. She closed her eyes, hoping it would help. She felt the regeneration energy flowing through her again, healing the wounds that were clean already.
"This is fascinating," Vision noted. Mae chuckled, immediately regretting that decision.
"Don't move, dear," Loki mumbled gently. She felt his fingers grazing her skin and pulling out the glass for a while, then he said: "I'm afraid that's all I can do. We'll have to wait for the princess with the first aid kit."
"That's alright," Mae nodded, feeling a slight relief from the pain. "So... the Stones are now gone?"
"Exactly," Loki confirmed. "So no matter what Thanos does now, he can't win."
"Great," she smiled.
"Unless he gets the Time Stone," Vision added and Loki glared at him. They seemed to be having a silent conversation about Thanos. In only a moment, Shuri finally came back with a small case.
"You look better," she pointed out as she opened the case and started pulling out various unfamiliar tools.
"I told you I'd be fine," Mae smirked. "What's that?"
"First aid," Shuri shrugged. She put on some sort of goggles and grabbed tweezers that looked way more high-tech than what Mae was used to. She touched the side of the goggles and they lit up, showing a whole bunch of numbers and statistics. But it was flipped horizontally, so Mae could not read any of it.
"The tips of the tweezers have anaesthetics in them, so it should not hurt as much," she told Mae. "But be prepared anyway, alright?"
"Sure," Mae nodded in acknowledgement and closed her eyes again. She felt the tool touch her skin, but that was all. No pain, only the annoying sensation of the metal moving around in her wound and trying to grab a small piece of glass that got stuck there. She knitted her eyebrows, trying not to express her discomfort too much. After a moment, she felt someone's hand touch hers and she opened her eyes to see Loki smiling at her.
It took Shuri about ten minutes to get every last bit of glass out of Mae's skin. When she was finally done, Mae opened her eyes to see her confused face.
"I don't understand, what's going on?" she asked. "How are you doing that?"
"It's... uh..." Mae was not exactly sure how to explain it to her.
"You know what, let's get out of here and see what's happening outside," Shuri suggested and pulled her to her feet, then headed out to the corridor. "You can tell me on the way."
"Basically, when one of our kind finds themself near death, they regenerate," Mae began as she followed Shuri. "Their whole body changes completely to prevent death. Every single cell is renewed and our appearance changes too. Sometimes the personality as well, but not significantly."
"Thanos tried to kill me a few hours ago," she did not allow Shuri to interrupt her. "And I regenerated. But it's like you're running down a really steep hill. You can't just stop, you keep going for a while, slowing down."
"Exactly," Mae nodded. "Within the first fifteen hours after regeneration, minor injuries get healed almost immediately. Some also suffer from memory loss or confusion."
"Headaches?" Loki proposed, remembering Mae's struggle in the Sanctum.
"Apparently," Mae smirked bitterly. "I'm worried that something more might happen. Everybody always talked about exhaustion and falling unconscious, but I'm... what, seven hours in, and nothing happened yet."
"Maybe it's the adrenaline," Vision spoke up. "Something's constantly going on, maybe that's what stops you from feeling tired."
"Could be," she admitted.
"I need to know more about you," Shuri said excitedly. "Could you... could you stay here for a while after this ends? For scientific purposes."
Mae exchanged a look with Loki. It did not exactly fall into their plans. "You want to study me?"
"Pretty please," she nodded. "Just the most basic tests to find out about your physiology and you would answer a few questions. It wouldn't take more than... a day? Two at most."
"I suppose we could spare a little time," Mae spoke slowly, taking everything into consideration. "As soon as we get my TARDIS back, we can go back as much as we need."
"You have time travel technology?!" Shuri exclaimed. "How?"
Mae laughed awkwardly. "I'll get it to you as well," she promised. "I think you guys are advanced enough to handle it."
Shuri squealed any clapped her hands. Mae smirked and put a strand of her hair behind her ear.
"You didn't do that before," Loki pointed out.
"Didn't do what?" she frowned, her hand still on her neck.
"The hair thing," he replied. "This must be at least the thirtieth time you adjusted it today, but you never did it before the regeneration."
"I don't even know I'm doing it," she mumbled. "Is it annoying?"
"No, not at all, my dear," he smiled. "It was just an observation. If anything, it may be slightly distracting, because it's adorable."
Mae blushed furiously and looked down at her feet. In only a moment, they finally reached the lab and Shuri immediately headed to the big window. Before Mae and Loki could get there too, she was blinded by a bright white light. She thought the headache was coming back and this was just the first wave, but before she managed to find out what was happening, her head started spinning around and the whole world emerged itself into complete darkness. Then she only felt herself falling, but did not remember if she landed or not.
She opened her eyes and blinked a few times in hopes it would make her surroundings stop being so blurry. It was useless and she sighed in annoyance.
"Mae?" she heard someone's voice from far away. It felt as if she were under water and the speaker was on land. Another blurry blob appeared in front of her and she felt something tickle her face. She blinked some more and after a moment, the world finally became focused again. The blob became a familiar face and she realised that the tickle was from his hair.
"Hey," she croaked. "What happened?"
"You passed out," Loki replied.
"Must have jinxed it," she smirked and with Loki's help, she sat up slowly. She looked around and saw that she had been lying on the same table as Vision before.
"Are you alright?" Shuri questioned. "Does anything hurt?"
"No, I'm... I'm fine, I think," Mae shook her head hesitantly. Before she managed to even take a breath to ask anything, Loki's hands were on the sides of her neck and his lips found hers. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around him, returning the kiss and smiling slightly. He moved his arms on her back and pulled her closer.
He felt so right after so much wrong.
"Get a room," Shuri rolled her eyes. They broke apart ever so slightly and Mae let out a small giggle, slightly out of breath.
"You got me really worried," Loki whispered.
"How long have I been out?" Mae asked finally.
"The battle's over," said Loki softly after a moment of hesitation.
"What?!" Mae frowned. "But... how... did we win?"
"Yes we did!" someone's voice boomed from the door. Mae flinched and turned in the direction and gasped upon seeing Thor looking like an excited puppy. The rest of the people were right on his tail. She let go of Loki in embarrassment.
"How did you... how are you... what's going on?" she stuttered. "And what- who is that?" she pointed to two new people. One of them seemed to be a raccoon, only he was walking on two legs and was clothed, the other one looked like a tree with arms, legs and a face, slightly taller than an average man. "Seriously, how long have I been out?"
"Not long," Vision, whom she did not notice before, told her. "Barely an hour."
"And Thanos is...?"
"Dead," Thor replied proudly. Mae noticed he was holding a rather large axe and let out a sigh of relief. It was done. She missed the most important part of it, but at least the whole ordeal was finally behind them all.
"Thank God," she mumbled and closed her eyes.
"Who the hell are you supposed to be?" Thor frowned as if he only noticed her now.
And that's the end, folks! Thank you all for reading and enjoying the little story I put together because I just love Loki so much. I would really appreciate if you could maybe give me a review of the overall thing, mostly of the romance I tried to weave into it as gently as I could.
Thank you once more! And I hope to see you again at my other works :)